A click-bait title, I know, but here is my review of the week, which as I continued reflecting on made me mindful of the dangers of what has been an epically successful week.
Thank you for contributing to PISW2018, what excited you? What would you change in PISW2019? What was your biggest take away?
I remain in awe of thoughtful work of The Child Protection in Sport Unit, who are part of NSPCC, and Dr Camilla Knight who together are the backbone of this week in the sporting calendar. Camilla’s library of material is a regular companion as I plan sessions.
The upside of ‘Parents in sports week’ 2018 (PISW2018)
There was loads of new material and approaches being offered as to how to engage with parents. I did a webinar, my first, which was a strange experience (on my own in a room). Many others tried out new creative activities like the gymnastics club who involved parents. (My daughter does gym and I’m a little grateful my forward roll was not exposed to the world at her club.)
There Was More.
Not only were clubs more creative there was just tons more social media coverage and the hashtag #parentsinsportsweek2018 was well used. Meaning that the traction this week creates will potentially have a wider impact.
This is going to sound critical of one group of people I deeply value and use as my resource for most of what I do, but it’s not. The week had many types of voices this year. Over the last couple of years, it has been academics who have driven and presented much of the content of PISW. We need their content. It’s just that it is uncommon to be a good communicator for those outside your usual circle of influence. Being a great practitioner and academic is not easy. Some manage to cross that divide well. Dr Suzanne Brown, Dr Ed Hall and Richard Cheetham are in my option are among the examples of people who do manage this crossover. With the broadening of these voices, we get a richer tapestry of narrative around parents in sport. This has an added bonus. It enables us to enjoy and learn from the much needed and valuable academic voice in the discussion. Trinity School in Croydon are an excellent example of this blend of voice. In September they had Rusty and me present to the parents. (Our styles are very different.) In November they have professor Sarah Jane Blakemore coming to talk about the brain. (I’d wholeheartedly recommend her book which you can find here.)
The Dangers of Parents in Sports week 2018
A Box ticked
Has the box ‘being nice to sports parents’ been ticked for another year? The proof of the success of this week in October 2018 is to be found in the way coaches are speaking to parents on a cold and wet weekend morning in January 2019? Are there still parent’s socials and curry nights in February? Will athletes be encouraged to write thank you cards to their parents at the end of the season? Will parents be invited to fill out a “parent end of season questionnaires” (like this one?) I love doing coaches CPD about working with parents. Will such CPD becoming an annual part of coach training? These I would suggest are some of the ways to measure if PISW2018 has been successful. When I get invited into a sporting environment I am often saddened when it is clear that my visit is an isolated event, rather than part of a wider parent engagement strategy. As I serve different teams, schools and national governing bodies I am finding that it is my work on supporting season-long strategy which is becoming more of a service as these institutions realise that one off and box ticking does not serve the parents or their athletes. Do get in touch if you’d like a phone call with me to help you explore your parenting strategy.
Where are the elites?
(Yes I know elite is not a great word when talking about kids, but you know what I mean!) There were some “big name” clubs/ athletes who commented on PISW2018. But it was only a few. Why is that? Do those clubs not feel they need PISW2018? Does it not fit well with their ‘image?’ Is the material not relevant to them or fitting their need? Do those clubs still not see the need for parent engagement? It is because these are the environments which have the hardest times with parents and so they are already engaging well or have decided to build a wall between coaches and parents? As someone who mainly works in ‘elite’ environments I know there are a number of clubs which take their parent engagement very seriously and do it very well. Perhaps we need to think about how we draw elites into this conversation. I know that Camilla Knight is contributing to a book about elite sports people soon and so I eagerly wait to see what this adds to the discussion.
I’m going to get into trouble for this next sentence, but when was the last time you saw a ‘normal’ Mother’s or Father’s day card which just said. “thanks”. I can’t find one which doesn’t say “You are the most amazing mum/dad ever” which is a big faltering claim. Please don’t get me wrong I think we should be very thankful to parents, but is there a danger that our tone in PISW is becoming the sort of empty platitudes and praise we warn parents about not using! That is why I wrote my ‘poem’, I wanted some edge, some balance, but then perhaps even I was too mushy here! Parents do get it wrong at times and that’s ok! Parents aren’t perfect either, PISW2018 is an opportunity to praise and stretch, not just praise. An opportunity to be grateful and to stir reflection on how we are parents.
Is more translation still needed?
Do some of the parenting materials still need translating for parents? How do we support the grassroots coach and club in translating their passion for kids and sport into fruitful parent engagement? I have too much to say on this here, but my 20-year experience and looking at the behaviour change science tells me that the “resources”, posters and social media sound bites are still too coach, club and academic centric. We’ve made great progress, but it is time to get our ‘sports to parent’ phase books out to help deeper engagement. Engagement which lasts all year around. Engagement which enables conversations for the growth of the whole sporting family, parents included.
Roll on parents in sports week 2019…