Kids just want to have fun

Active Voice
with Glenn Eyers
Sport BOP Community Sport Advisor

Smelly rugby boots at the front door, hockey ball dents in the walls, forgotten netball uniforms in the back seat and, of course, footballs on the roof.

That's right, the winter sport season has arrived and with it a new wave of excitement among kids as they count down the days to Saturday morning when they get to run around with their friends.

Parents too, rain or shine, will be there on the sideline to cheer on their children. It seems like just yesterday their little ones were learning to walk – now they are running, jumping and sliding around.

A lifelong love of sport seems like the natural progression.

But suddenly high school hits and many of those kids will have hung up their boots, handed back their uniforms and stopped getting the balls off the roof.

A sobering statistic from the US states that of the 20 million children registered for baseball, soccer, football, hockey and other competitive sports, about 70% of those will quit by age 13. While the situation in New Zealand is not yet that serious, it could easily head that way.

And the big question is, ‘Why?'

Negative sideline behaviour is a serious issue and one that Sport Bay of Plenty is working on improving for the betterment of sport and recreation in the region. But it's not just about stopping that loud mouth offering constant advice to the referee; it's about creating a positive sporting environment and that all starts with those subtle behaviours.

When the children were asked why they quit sport, the most common reason was the car ride home. While their parents were nothing but supportive on the sideline, their breakdown of the game on the way home and intense criticism of their child's performance really took the fun out of playing.

We love to watch our kids play well, learn new skills and improve, but the most important thing is that they have fun. Some kids will view having fun as winning; most just like to be hanging out with their mates, slipping and sliding in the mud on a chilly Saturday morning.

So this weekend, as you drive home after a great morning of sport, ask your child how much fun they had and why they love playing – and remind them that rugby boots don't wash themselves!

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Silhouetted sunrise on July 14th. Photo: Janet Hetherington

Send us your photos from around the Bay of Plenty. kendra@thesun.co.nz