The sports that give every kid a go, at every game
FORGET the “win at all costs” approach to junior sport ‒ parents are instead flocking to clubs which guarantee to give their child a run at every game.
In a long overdue return to a “participation and co-operation” philosophy, more sporting clubs are now encouraging kids to have fun and develop skills, and it’s earning them some loyal supporters.
This follows a US study which found that 90 per cent of children would rather play on a losing team than sit out the game on a winning team.
Lismore Swans Juniors Aussie Rules vice president, Simon Stainton, said the club welcomed girls and boys from age five.
He said their inclusive approach had generated a positive response from families.
“We guarantee that every junior player will get a go every game,” he said.
“We had one youngster come across from another football code because he said the sport wasn’t fun anymore because of a win at all costs mindset; he’s just blossomed here, developed confidence and is playing really well.”
Stainton said he had met parents whose children played other codes and spent all season on the bench, despite turning up to every training session and home and away game, desperate to have a run on the ground,
“This is heartbreaking for the kid and their parents,” he said.
“It’s all about making our game as accessible to every child as possible..
“We also hold workshops for kids with disabilities with AFLQ.”
Football Far North Coast general manager, Steve Mackney, said giving every youngster a fair go was vital for the sport’s growth.
“I would be very disappointed if I heard a junior player was spending all or most of a season on the bench,” he said.
“Essentially the issue is about participation from the five to 11-year-olds, in a non-competitive environment.
“Just let the kids play, develop skills and have fun.”
Mackney said while most parents and coaches were terrific, a few can get too focused on winning.
“This is not about playing for sheep stations,” he said.
“This is about youngsters hopefully getting out there and wanting to play the game.”
He said while teams were limited to 14 players with 11 on the field and three on the bench, “there should be a periodic rotation of players”.
“Exceptionally talented players can feel the pressure is too much and kids who are not so talented skills-wise get turned off as they feel inadequate and embarrassed – and they have as much as right to play and enjoy the game as anyone,” Mackney said.
Far North Coast Softball spokeswoman, Di McGowen, said they welcomed all ages, with everyone getting a go at all the positions during their weekly games.
“We’d love to get more junior players,” she said.
“Our junior competition focuses on giving them skills and teamwork, so we rotate them through the game to give everyone a turn to pitch and at the bat, you never know what talent is out there unless you give them a go.”
McGowen said juniors with a competitive edge played in the senior teams where the older players assisted them skills development.
Lismore Storm president Aaron Simpson said the basketball club “aims to give every kid a go”.
“For young kids we have the Aussie Hoop program to get kids from six to nine or 10, who have ever played before,” he said.
“It’s more skills-based and lots of fun, and then the next level is the junior competition and we spilt them all into teams as evenly as we can and we run a Monday night competition.”
Simpson said while all games were scored, the younger kids simply enjoyed playing with their friends.
A spokeswoman for Netball NSW said youngsters started off in the NetSetGo program for girls and boys aged five to 10.
“It’s a chance to learn the netball basics, get outside and make some friends,” she said.
“For a lot of kids, this is the first time they’ll pick up a netball or chuck on a bib. It’s a learning experience. And a lot of fun.”
● Has your child changed sports because of too much bench-time, or a coach who took the game too seriously? Or maybe they have a great club which brings out the best in every player? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org