Advice for Parents

Change 4 LifeChange 4 Life is running a new initiative to help people to make healthier choices. Whether you are looking to 'get moving', eat less sugar, drink less alcohol, or eat more fruits and vegetables, then these new packs could help you.

The Sugar Swaps pack includes tips and advice to help you make better choices, as well as money-off discounts for healthier foods, and tools to track your progress. You can also sign up for reminders and motivational messages, sent free to your email address, or via SMS. These packs are free, so why not give them a try? Check out the posters at the gym for some great, nutritious snack ideas too!

Getting children involved with sport from an early age is a great thing from a health perspective and also helps them to develop the balance, coordination and agility that they will need if they want to compete at a higher level when they get older.

Unfortunately, many young children end up having short sporting careers because they burn out and lose interest, or, worse, suffer a debilitating injury. As a parent, if you want your child to achieve their sporting potential there are several things that you should be mindful of:

Don't specialise at a young age

There will be plenty of time for your child to hone their skills in one specific sport as a teenager. Children get bored easily, and the sport that your child has a talent for right now may not be a lifelong passion. Even if it is, they may not grow up to have the ideal body type for it. Let them have fun, experiment and find the things they love.

Pushing a child to play a sport that they do not like could put them off sports as a young adult, or for the rest of their lives.

Don't over emphasize winning

Children are generally incredibly perceptive. Even if you tell them that "It's the taking part that counts" if you criticize the referee, reward victory more enthusiastically than you do less successful performances and act in a competitive manner around other parents your child will pick up on this.

Encourage good sportsmanship in both victory and defeat, and remember that the most important question is not "How did you do?", but rather "Did you have fun?"

Teach the importance of a good warm up

Young children are usually more flexible and less injury prone than adults but an athletic training regimen will take a toll on any child. Teach them the importance of taking warm up drills seriously, and if their coach does not use skill-specific movement drills in the warm up, or does not have a systematic warm up at all, consider taking your child to another club.

Take complaints seriously

Young children may lack the vocabulary to explain that something hurts or that they are chronically fatigued. If your child loses enthusiasm for a sport do not dismiss their behaviour as laziness or childish whims. Talk to them and try to find out if they have a concern that they are having trouble articulating.

Make time for rest

Rest, both physical and mental, is important. Make sure your child is getting enough sleep and that they are given the chance to broaden their horizons and develop hobbies outside of sport. This will help to prevent burn out and give them a chance to build up a circle of friends at the same time. Children are not miniature adults, and expecting them to train as if they are is not good for their social or emotional development.

Use the right safety equipment

According to Dawn Comstock, PhD, Principle Investigator at The Center for Injury Research and Policy at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, injury rates are higher in competition than in practice, but because young athletes spend so much time training the likelihood that an injury will occur in training is just as high, in real terms, as it is for competition. The sheer amount of time spent training increases the injury risk greatly and yet it is all too common for young athletes to use substandard safety equipment in day to day training, or even fail to use things like mouth guards altogether. This pits them at unnecessary risk of injury. Make sure that your child has the right equipment for the sport they are playing, that the equipment fits well, is comfortable and is in a good state of repair. If there is a culture of not wearing protective gear at their club, talk to the coach about changing that culture.

Educate yourself

The more you know about your child's sport and about physiology in general the better you will be able to help your child. This doesn't mean that you should try to do the job of your child's coach, but if you have some understanding of the sport you will be able to reinforce his messages and help your child take care of themselves.

Stop Sports Injuries is a charity that works to educate parents and coaches about overuse injuries and the other injuries that tend to occur in youth sports. The charity provides codes of practice and educational materials for parents and coaches, and maintains a list of clubs and sports leagues around the world that are committed to protecting the health of young athletes. Origin Sports has made that commitment, as have some of the clubs that we work with. Talk to your child's coach about injury prevention and how you can work together to ensure each child on the team has a long and healthy sporting career.

One of the biggest barriers to participation in sports is a lack of awareness of the opportunities available in the local area. Many people would love to be more active and get involved with a local club or team, but they simply don't know what options they have.

That's what Spogo are trying to fix. Spogo is a Lottery funded charity that aims to improve participation in sport by helping people find classes, clubs and teams in their area. In addition, it aims to inform people about different sports and combat the misconception that sports are only for young people and natural athletes.

If you are interested in trying a new sport, take a look at the Spogo search tool in the sidebar of this site. The Spogo directory covers everything from archery to zumba, so there should be something in your area that appeals to you and your family.

At most gyms, the two busiest periods are the new calendar year and the new school year. January sees the largest number of adults enrolling as people embark on the fitness regimen that was a part of their New Year's resolutions, while September and October are the times that see the greatest number of children and teenagers sign up because these months coincide with the end of the holidays and the start of school, college and university terms.

At this time of year we get a lot of enquiries from parents who are interested in signing their children up for a new sport. Origin Sports works with several martial arts groups, and naturally many parents are concerned about whether a martial art would be right for their child. Some parents think of martial arts as being too violent for a child, some are concerned about the potential for injury and others are simply not sure whether their small, young or shy child would do well in the class. These concerns are all perfectly normal and valid, and we hope that we can help you to understand more about the classes that our coaches run so that you can make an informed decision about your child's sporting future.

Are Wrestling and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Good For Children?

As long as they are taught by a well-trained coach, and performed in a safe environment, wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) are good sports for children. Wrestling has something of an undeserved poor reputation, especially in the UK and Europe, because when most people think of wrestlers they think of the sports entertainment variety. The sport of amateur wrestling is vastly different to the kind of wrestling that made stars such as Hulk Hogan and Brett Hart.

The sport of Olympic wrestling is something that is commonly taught in schools in America, and it has numerous health benefits as well as helping to teach discipline and team spirit. Wrestling promotes speed, agility, strength and flexibility. Malcolm Morley of the British Wrestling Association notes that children take to wrestling quite well at an early age. Wrestling is an individual sport but practitioners train together as a team, fostering an environment of trust and mutual respect. Training sessions are quite intense and those who become passionate about the sport often find themselves making positive changes to their lifestyle so that they can do the best that they can on the wrestling mats.

Brazilian jiu jitsu does not quite have the same established presence as wrestling for younger athletes, but its popularity is rapidly growing. The movements and techniques taught in children's BJJ classes are different to the ones that are taught to adults. While adults learn a lot of positional control and submission moves, children's BJJ classes focus more on balance, co-ordination and agility. The children's BJJ classes use games to help children develop confidence and to teach them how to fall safely, how to escape from someone attempting to pin them on the ground, and how to control someone on the ground without hurting them. Older children do learn some submission moves, but only once they have shown that they have the co-ordination and the maturity required to do them safely.

The techniques taught to children are ideal from an anti-bullying perspective, and can arm a child with the confidence required to avoid a fight, and the ability to protect themselves without using excessive force, should it be absolutely necessary.

Will My Child Do Well in a Group Class?

While each coach has their own requirements, in general we suggest that parents wait to enrol their children in a kid's class until they can tell left from right. Mature children and teenagers may be welcome to attend adult classes. This is something that you should discuss with the coach of the class in question. Some children do well in the adult classes, but a child that is small for their age or very shy may need to spend some time getting a basic grounding in the kid's class before joining the adults.

Many parents are concerned that their child may struggle in a group class because they are shy, have a short attention span or are not naturally gifted at sports. This is not anything to worry about. It is a good idea to introduce children to sports while they are still young and can learn through play. Their co-ordination will get better with practice, and they will have a chance to bond with their peers, expend some energy, and hopefully learn some new skills. As they get older, their concentration will improve and so will their confidence.

What Can I do to Support My Child?

If you would like to support your child as they get involved with sports, try to learn a little about the sport in question yourself. That doesn't mean that you should sign up for classes or join a team yourself; although you will find that you will be made welcome if you choose to do so. Just take some time to learn the rules of the sport, and talk to the coaches about the skills that your child is learning.

Make sure that your child is having fun in the classes, and do not push your child to train too often or to compete if they are not enjoying it. There will be weeks when your child needs some extra motivation to step away from the TV and come to class, but if you notice that your child is lacking in enthusiasm every week, ask them why, and give them the opportunity to try another sport to see if they might enjoy it more.

Take care not to put too much importance on winning. Sports Psychologist Simon Hartley often talks about pressure and the impact that it has on sporting performance. In an article published in the Podium Sports Journal, he says "Normally, we feel ‘pressure’ when we start imagining what might happen if we don’t achieve the outcome we desire or that we expect. “What if I don’t win?”… “What will the press say?”… “What will the coach say?”… “What will people think?”…" these fears are something that most adults are all too familiar with. Try not to put your child in a position where they experience those fears. Congratulate them whether they win or lose, and let them enjoy the sport for its own sake.

At Origin Sports, we understand that not all parents have the funds to pay for gym fees, equipment, tournament entry fees and transportation. We aim to make sport as affordable as possible and to offer inclusive, affordable and safe access to sport for all. Our youth sports program is just getting started, and we hope to have some exciting updates coming in the next few months.