6 Considerations for Adult Behaviour in Kids Sport

Joey PetersBlog2 Comments

Parent Adults Behaving Badly in Kids Sport

Kids Sport: It’s an experience, not a performance

During the Under 11’s game today, I was very conscious of my behaviour. Specially since the challenge of our last blog, I kept quiet as to not interfere with the kids game experience, and whilst I was feeling proud for barely opening my mouth, knowing I was being a good role model of nurturing independent learners, I noticed another behaviour - 

I was clapping. A lot.  I did a lot of clapping. Also the parents clapped. There was a lot of clapping.

And yes, there was a lot of good effort and exciting play happening on the pitch, so that deserves a clap doesn’t it?

Well it got me thinking… You clap a performance. And for kids, sport should not be a performance. It should be an experience

Even worse, if it is a performance, then us adults on the sideline are the audience that the performers are there to impress. Oh no! Adult-centred Warning!!

I stopped Clapping.

Ok, so I may be getting a little extreme to condemn clapping? I definitely don’t want to be an extremist and take the humanness out of relating with the kids.  It’s just that the more I’m involved with kids sport, the more I see it’s moving away from organic, fun play and more towards adult-driven competition and structures that’s putting undue pressure on these young beings. How does one bring awareness and change other than offering an opposite alternative hoping that it might somehow balance out in the middle with the aid of common sense. 

I gave another clap. ‘Good play guys!’ Let’s keep human shall we?

The opposition soon scored a great goal and the young player celebrated with the famous Ronaldo jump and pose. Performance / Experience are they both one and the same?

But it kept me thinking - Even with good intentions of wanting to encourage and support kids, can you see how there’s a deeper message that could impose our ‘adultness’ on the kids? We approve. Entertain us! Having kids play sport to get our approval would be the last thing we’d want. But we want to support them and affirm positive actions don’t we?

So clap, yell if you want, there’s no right or wrong way. But to keep us thinking, can I risk some extreme ideas so as for hope of bringing back a child-centred, fun, playful experience to organised sport.

6 considerations for adult behaviour in Kids Sport

When applying these considerations,  there’s a big need to wrap them in COMMON SENSE and allow your own INSTINCTS to lead your behaviours in each context and moment with your child / learners.

Give them a try and see if you notice a difference in their experience?

  • #1 Get them TO the experience

    Whether you drive them or arrange to get them there and be picked up, don’t underestimate the SUPPORT and COMMITMENT your giving to your child by getting them TO the experinence.

  • #2 detach to attach

    We need allow the child to detach from us as adults to attach to the experience. They know we will always be there but we empower them with AUTONOMY and CONFIDENCE to face the experience independently and interdependently with their teammates.

  • #3 observe

    As mentioned above, closing our mouth and not calling out means our other senses are heightened. This means we might notice other substitute behaviours of ours (such as clapping!) but more importantly it opens our eyes and ears to observe the child and value their own decisions in relation to the game without judgement.

  • #4 without emotion

    This may seem extreme since we are emotional beings but the point being if we can remain in a neutral, calm state, we again affirm that the experience is theirs and not ours and that whatever they do, it doesn’t affect our emotions, which children can easily internalise.

  • #5 ask not advise

    You might be tempted you give advice on what you saw and what you thought was right or wrong, but try keeping that to yourself and instead ask “How did you go?” as if you have no idea and are only interested on what their experience was.

  • #6 transition

    When it’s time to leave the experience, get to know how the child best transitions from one experience to the next. Do they need quiet time? Do they like to continue the playful mood? Rest? Eat? Helping them transition will affirm a positive memory to be optimistic for the next experience.

About the Author

Joey Peters


A former international footballer with 110 games for Australia (1996-2009) , 3 World Cups (1999,2003,2007) and Olympian (2004), Joey continued in the game through coaching in her home town of Newcastle, NSW. Coaching at senior and youth levels, Joey’s passion has settled in the development context with kids. After much research and experience also in parenting 8 kids, Joey is invested in bringing the Game Play Learn approach to life and bring back the joy and freedom of play to organised sport.

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