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The Queen’s Speech for Sporting Families

Christmas adds to every family’s balancing act. For those families with young people seeking to grow their sporting potential the challenge is even harder as expectations on athletes and family time increase as everyone wants to enjoy those ‘special’ family moments. 

 Thank you for all you have done in 2019 to see your children’s potential thrive as you have managed the sporting families balancing act, just as the Queen reflects on the nation’s and her family’s year, one* suggests that for sporting families it is extremely helpful to reflect on your year and on how you will continue to grow potential over the season of goodwill. 

[*one does not normally say ‘one’, but as one is talking Queen’s speeches one thought one would crank up the regal English!]

As a festive treat I’ve got a number of Non-Perfect Dad’s friends to give us their thoughts on how one gets the best out of the festive season as families of children with sporting potential. 

See them as mini queen’s speeches from some of the best coaches out there. 

Before you read their wisdom, here are a few thoughts one has had for handling the sporting Christmas challenge of harmonising the season of goodwill. 

  1. ‘You’re gonna need a bigger boat’. 

Share what is important to you as parents, ask everyone else what is important to them. Ask your children to ask their coaches what their expectations are for training and rest in the last two weeks of December (or you might need to ask the coaches.) Then make a plan which attempts to listen to and do what is best for all, just like you do for the rest of the year. As ever this is about having quality conversations.  

Conversations which support the growth of potential. Conversations which are willing to compromise and at the same time protect everyone’s needs, including yours as parents. This is never easy and we are never going to please everyone all the time, but isn’t that Christmas? Once you have a plan, communicate it to those who need to know it. From young people to the elderly changes in long held traditions can be difficult to adjust too, make sure people know what is going to happen in advance so they can get their head around what will be happening. 

They needed a bigger boat in Jaws, you’ll probably need a bigger conversation and plan to thrive at Christmas. 

(Have you signed up for my free video course on having conversations which grow potential?)

      2 . ‘Food, glorious food’. 

One has asked Dr Debbie an expert nutritionist to give her top festive athlete food tips.  

She says ‘It’s a tough time of the year: cold, dark, everywhere we look there’s food (TV adverts, every shop seems to have Christmas snacks, the fridge, the special treats cupboard…) and given it’s school holidays, normal training schedules may be amended meaning reduced training volume.’  Her top nutrition tips on how to juggle this challenge can be found here:  

      3.‘It is all for nothing if you don’t have freedom’

Free yourselves from the expectation of the ‘perfect Christmas!’ We have had the ad’s selling us the perfect glossy festive time for months now, but it just isn’t out there! There is no right way of juggling it all, you can’t keep everyone happy 100% of the time. Juggle it in the way you are going to look back on and say we made the best choices we could at the time for sporting potential and family life. You might miss training for family time or miss family time for training, but know you are doing what you can to support everyone’s expectations.

     4.‘Because I have a right to be heard. I have a voice!’ 

Write your own sporting queen’s speech as a family for 2019! Reflect on the highs and lows, on what has helped see character and potential grow, of what has got in the way, of the lessons learnt and the pain shared. Remember the surprises of 2019, injuries, de-selection and  team conflict and how they added to who you are as a sporting family.
You could even record it and let us all see your sporting family ‘queen’s’ speech. The Shorter’s sporting Queen’s speech will be released in the free online community so sign up to make sure you don’t miss it. 

Have a totally epic Christmas, I’m looking forward to seeing more potential growth together in 2020.

Richard aka Non-Perfect Dad.

Mini sporting Queens speeches

Here are what some epic friends to Non-Perfect Dad have to say about Christmas:-

‘I love Christmas. It’s magic. The trick is to be present when you’re present. I’m still learning that. The other thing is to get a tree slightly too big for your space… 😂😂’  Scott Bemand- England Woman’s Rugby Coach 

‘With hectic Christmas schedules, it’s natural to find ourselves focusing on what we need to do and where we need to be. Take a moment to remember the ‘why’ and have a good chat with your little ones about what they enjoyed in a particular practice, what they learnt, how they helped a team mate and so on. It might only take 2-3 mins and will hopefully re energise you! Above all, be kind to yourself, you’re doing a great job!’    Katie Warriner- Elite Sport Psychologist

‘For me the key is finding a good balance, especially this time of the year.  Whilst sport plays a key part in our life, we try to find the right balance between being active / relaxing, eating well / having treats…  We definitely cut ourselves more slack, so that when temptation gets the better of us (e.g. another chocolate off the tree, or 3), we don’t beat ourselves up. We use this time to recharge our batteries and enjoy the time we have together as a family.’ Neil Latimer – (Non-Perfect Dad’s clothing supplier)

‘Agree the days that are family only to ensure quality time s family. Sometimes the activity is squeezed in so ensure appropriate recovery strategies. Be mindful that you will probably eat and drink  differently and the impact on performance etc.’ Fletch – Magic Academy  

‘What we hope we do is recognise the need for Sarah to continue a training regime over the festive period but we still ensure that the family can enjoy  a traditional family Christmas together including a family walk on her favourite beach. We make sure she has time to visit friends and her former rugby club. We still spoil her but her feet are kept firmly on the ground by her brother! It’s family and friends time, whilst still recognising the needs of an elite athlete.’ Janet Hunter- Totally epic human and mum to England rugby captain Sarah Hunter. 

‘Christmas is about connections so for me it is about being with people I don’t get to see as much during the season. It is also a great opportunity to re-charge mentally and physically, do things to be kind to yourself, make memories with people and do things that are important to you that you don’t normally have time to do. It’s also about having fun so as a coach, all my sessions would be high energy and total focus on enjoyment!’  Anastacia Long – Trinity School, Croydon 

‘The greatest leadership principle is love, during this festive period love gets tested in different ways during family gatherings. However, whilst playing board games, sharing memorable moments we learn to appreciate this leadership principle in its entirety. Make this time playful, learn from every moment and grow with your family.’ Warren Abrahams – Rugby 7’s coach & founder of Coaching 4 Potential

‘If you love doing something then do as much of it as you can. If that means going for a run with or without the family on Christmas day then do it! And if that’s what your son or daughter wants to do then embrace it! It will only make the rest of the day with family more enjoyable for everyone involved.’ Nick Buoy -Director of Rugby Brighton College 

‘My simple but effective suggestion is for parents to have a dialogue with their kids before the break and pre agree what they are going to do, when & for how long. This resolves so many issues and provides a clear schedule that isn’t grey or misinterpreted that could cause conflict.’ Mark Bennett MBE – 

‘I would say the best way is to be organised, to have a written plan and also ask the kids what it is they actually want to do over the festive period. They may want a break from all sport or they may want to try something different. Don’t just presume they want to do the norm. Have a fantastic Christmas period.’ Mr HoUlt  – Head of Rugby Coopers Coborn and Company school 

‘Take the opportunity to talk to your athlete about their sport. What do they want to achieve in 2020 and what role do they need you to play in achieving their dreams? Be brave and ask them if there is anything that you do that they find difficult or embarrassing. Some athletes go through their whole junior sporting career dreading Mum or Dad turning up to spectate, but never brave enough to say “Dad, I find it really difficult when you argue with the ref”……you get the picture!’

Eira Parry- High performance Parenting (she wrote this great blog last year about Christmas )

‘Spend time together as a family enjoying each other’s company as much as possible this may mean you all going to watch x play sport but think about how precious this time really is and what impact that time could have on each other.’  Gary Johnson – Hockey Coach 

‘We operate a no participation/rest week-ish every year from 23/12 to 2/1 so we can indulge in all the goodies, wear pj’s all day and all be in the same place for a change and reconnect. Watching on TV is fine if there is nothing else on however family meals, box sets or reading rules over Xmas.’  Paula Bradbury- Chair RFU Cheshire Executive

‘It is a really important time for me and I would always put family first. Spend time with grandparents. Lots of time to train and play next year.’ Gary Street- Harlequins Women’s head coach 

‘While all Children need to get a high-quality education, avoid crime and at some point get a job. But they deserve more. We want them to learn not only reading but fairness, caring, self-respect from sport, and family commitment, charity and caring for others. If so, then the Christmas break becomes an ideal backdrop to reflect and reconnect with our families, friends and communities to help nurture these values in our children.’  Stuart Wilkinson- Head Coach Serbia Rugby League