Junior Tigers Update: February 4, 2021

Following the Winter Break, our Athletics Program resumed practices. Our Grade 5, 6, and 7 basketball teams each continue to practice twice a week, and the improvement in skills is easy to see. The Dryland Swim Team has also picked up their weekly practices, and for that we give them a virtual pat on the back. Each week the athletes and coaches brave the cold weather to complete a dryland session. While the entire team would love to be in the water, it is great to see the Swim Team maintaining their spirit and enthusiasm. Well done, Tigers!

Rugby has also returned to our Junior School Athletics Program for the first time in 25 years. Coach, and Grade 7 teacher, Ryan Alguire has introduced Flag Rugby to a group of Grade 6 and 7 athletes. The team is practicing outside once a week, and they are loving it! Time will tell, but Flag Rugby may become a permanent fixture in our program.

Thank you! I believe the YHS Community understands the importance of physical activity and the positive role it plays in supporting our mental well-being. Kudos to you, for finding a way to support your children’s physical activities, either through PHE, school sport, or community sport. Thank you for trusting our coaches and keeping our programs thriving with happy and supported athletes. 

Last but not least, this week our “Athletics Explained” brings the third and final installment of “The Role of Parents in Athletics”. Following an explanation of expectations and communication, the third installment will focus on the role of parents (and others) in children’s sport. 

THE ROLE OF PARENTS IN ATHLETICS: Part 3

Let us start by recognizing that when your child joins a team/activity, you are handing your child over to the sport, the team, and the coach. This is a big deal, especially for our youngest children. You are now extending the circle of experts beyond that of parents and teachers, and you want to make sure that is a safe situation. Our young athletes are taking massive steps towards independence and parents can either help or hinder that journey with their actions. So…what’s the best path of action to take?

In youth sports there are four roles: athlete, coach, official, and fan. For most parents, the only available role during a game/practice is spectator or fan. Being a youth sports fan is easy, you cheer good plays for both teams. Seems simple enough, right? Ah, but there is a catch, the transition before the game from parent to spectator, and after the game from spectator to parent can be filled with anxiety, stress, and high expectations. Where does a parent fit in? How do we deal with the moments of transition? What should we say to our children in those moments? Let unconditional love and support guide your side of the conversation because no athletic journey is ever completed without parent support. How much, when, and where are the variables that cause a range of differences that lead to positive and negative outcomes.

As a parent of an 8-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl I am also living this journey. Coupling my experience with Coach Bruce Brown’s wisdom, here is what I say when I drop my children at a game or practice:

  • Have fun
  • Do your best
  • Good luck

When you pick your child up, Coach Brown suggests:

  • I love watching you play
  • I love you

The simplicity of the words is great, and I love that they have nothing to do with skill or time on task, and everything to do with unconditional support. Still, separating parenting and from your other ‘role’ can be difficult, but a conversation early in the season can help. As an example, I am currently coaching my son’s U9 soccer team. At the start of the season, he and I discussed the various roles a parent can have, and we decided that if he ever wants to talk about our soccer team I will ask him what hat he wants me to wear: “dad” hat or “coach” hat. It is great for me, because he dictates how I will support him, and it removes the pressure of having to get it right. As a coach, I can talk skills and techniques, tactics and strategies, and of course, sportsmanship. As a parent, I can talk about all of the things that go on around our house on game day, or I can support the coaches.

When our young ones start to participate, it is still very much a joint venture between the child and the parent. The abilities to manage transportation, water bottles, tying shoes, nutrition, masks, sleep, and respectful behaviors are still developing, and they all need your on-going support. As the journey continues, our children may need less logistical support, yet unconditional love and support remains paramount to their success, especially when athletic disappointments and successes seem to be larger than life. 

Although our ‘role’ might be limited during game time, our support is never limited, we just have to remember what hat we are wearing when we lend that support. 

Thanks for reading, and please remember if you ever want to discuss life around youth athletics, I am happy to have a conversation with you, just drop me an email or a phone call. Stay well.

Brent Jackson
Junior School Athletics Coordinator

Junior Tigers Update: December 10, 2020

This week we carry on with our Athletics Explained online information, and we continue introducing ideas and answers that will help us navigate the youth-sports journey. David Prissinotti has been the Senior School Athletics Director since 1998 and we have worked together since 1997. Over that time, I like to think that we have developed some fundamentally sound ideas about organizing school sports. Those ideas are born of experience with our entire community (students, parents, coaches, and administration). Many of our ideas align beautifully with Bruce Brown (ProActive Coaching). One of the biggest constants we have in common is that our Athletics Program is designed to develop good citizens. 

THE ROLE OF PARENTS IN ATHLETICS: PART 2
Children join physical activities all the time, and as our children grow, there is a shift from playing for fun to playing to practice (building skills). In the Junior School, our Athletics Program has to navigate this path as well. We start, first and foremost, by having a place for all of our Grade 3 to 7 students to participate—we don’t “cut” players in the Junior School Athletics Program. Secondly, in Grades 3 and 4 we intentionally introduce individual sports only. Team sports are added in Grade 5, when the majority of our student population can handle the more difficult skills and strategies that are required for team activities. Finally, we add tournaments to the Grade 7 schedules, so that they experience a higher level of competitive situations. The continuous growth of our student-athletes physical abilities parallels their ability to play a bigger and more central role in communication.

Communication:
When our Grade 3s start their school-based athletic journey they have very little experience in communication. Parents do the sign-up, coaches communicate to parents, and our youngest athletes are left to follow a lot of instructions. It is like this because our youngest athletes need that support. By Grade 5, young athletes will come home and begin to tell parents things that their coach is asking them to do. By Grade 7, most parents have suddenly found themselves in the background of communication, and often it is the parents who are left following instructions.

For the most part this is a smooth, natural transition. Coaches gradually ask more of their athletes, parents gradually expect more of their children, and children gradually want more independence. In today’s world, most of our online communication is just simply passing information along. However, sometimes problems arise (philosophies, roles, playing time), and here is when clear lines of communication are helpful both for teaching and resolving any issues. When there is a problem (usually between the player and the coach) the steps of communication/resolution should go something like the following:

  1. Player – Coach
  2. Player / Parent – Coach
  3. Player / Parent – Coach / AD
  4. Player / Parent – Coach / AD / Admin

Getting beyond the first two stages is usually indicative of a serious problem, or a philosophical juxtaposition, and beyond most youth athletes. Of course, any stage of communication immediately presents a problem when you are only 8 years old! It is completely within norms for parents to initiate conversations for their young children. As our children grow, we can slowly step back, and allow them to begin to initiate those conversations themselves. I am always amazed at how good some parents are at supporting their children’s self-advocacy. As I mentioned last week, this is our children’s journey, so when problems arise, they are central in the solutions. It is incumbent upon the adults to find the best way to support them in order for them to gain the most from their athletic endeavours. 

Brent Jackson
Junior School Athletics Coordinator