Choosing a sport

By Drum Digital
15 March 2014

How do children know which sport best suits them? And should parents give them guidance or leave them to decide for themselves?

At the start of the school year many parents are excited for their children but also worried about helping them choose a sport that’s fun, safe and affordable.

It’s not easy to help children choose because one child’s dream sport might be another’s nightmare.

When Springs couple Johann and Nicolette Meiring’s eldest son, Keagan (13), was in Grade 1 all he wanted to do was play rugby. Nicolette says his large build and strength made him stand out at school. As parents they felt rugby was a sport all boys knew and enjoyed.

“But he couldn’t keep up with the training and was last in everything,” Nicolette says.

“He was also bullied at school. We tried to push him in the beginning but realised he wasn’t ready to be a top achiever.”

In less than two months Keagan dropped rugby. He and his younger brother, Kyle (9), kept active by playing cricket in the backyard, cycling and swimming.

“I was tired of children bullying Keagan. Because he was a big boy he had to endure being mocked at school. He had the power but was kindhearted,” Nicolette says.

“Together we decided on karate and took the boys to a karate school to find out about the sport.

“It took a little thought but the boys decided for themselves they wanted to do karate; the time was right.

“We gave them a lecture before buying the expensive uniforms and warned them there would be no turning back. But I also told them if they found another sport they preferred we could consider dropping karate.”

Nicolette believes the secret to choosing a sport is to let children decide for themselves. “They’re doing well because we allowed them to decide.”

Today Keagan is happy with his choice of sport. His sensei (leader) is his hero and next year he wants to attend extra karate classes and compete overseas.

So far Keagan has taken part in two tournaments and he recently obtained his yellow belt. He has won a number of certificates and medals.

Kyle took part in his first championship last year. No one in his age group took part so he had to fight boys two years older than him. It was a struggle and he cried when he was punched in the mouth in his first tournament fight.

Nicolette says it’s sometimes difficult for parents but advises them to grit their teeth and at- tend matches, even when they know their child will lose or take a few blows. “They usually come out stronger for it. It was good for Kyle; he was brave and wanted to do it.”

At the same tournament Keagan won medals for the two second places he took for combat and kata.

“Kyle didn’t win anything and was very upset. Keagan felt sorry for him and told him he’d been brave to take on bigger boys. As we were leaving Keagan removed one of his medals and hung it around Kyle’s neck. Then they each had one.”

Nicolette says it’s amazing how self-confident her children have become. “Keagan even wants to play rugby again. It was his decision.”

Children’s choice of sport doesn’t have to become a problem, she says.

“I will always sup- port and motivate them, they know that. But they also know we’re strict.

“They think carefully before making decisions. I often tell them, ‘You’re always right – you either think you can do some- thing or you think you can’t’.”

Nicolette’s advice to parents

  • Let your children choose a sport on their own; forget what you may have in mind for them.
  • Don’t force your children; they’ll only end up hating the sport.
  • Teach them to finish whatever they start. S Don’t shout at them from the side of the sportsfield.
  • Support all your children equally. Accept that one may be better at something than the other.
  • Practise together, motivate them and be proud of them.
  • Teach them winning isn’t everything and that they should feel good about themselves if they’ve tried their best regardless of what they achieve.
  • Afterwards tell them where they can improve – but only if you really know and don’t just think you know. Praise them for whatever they do well.
  • Respect them and love them as they are.

Find Love!