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Parenting & Sport Lockdown Blog Edition 1 (April)

Parenting & Sport:
Live Love Sport Coaching Blog

Well we are now into week 2 - how is everyone doing? Are we really going to make it through 12 weeks of this? Maybe more if things don't quite get back to normal sooner rather than later. That is a scary thought for everyone, especially those with loved ones or people at most risk from this disease. So to begin with, please stay safe wherever you are and whoever you are with. 

With plenty of time on my side at the moment, its time to return to the Live Love Sport blog "Parenting & Sport". I first started writing this blog around 2 years ago now and I have to admit, the challenge of writing weekly or monthly content was greater than I had imagined. Family life, coaching, and running the business have been very time consuming and restricted the amount of writing that I could manage. But here I am with a chance to bring it back to life and try to do something positive with the strange time that we have been afforded.

Parenting & Sport was originally an idea based on shared experiences on the sidelines. Those moments we share as parents when our kids are playing sport and we don't know whether to laugh or cry, to give it all up or to spend more money on extra coaching. Our kids have the ability to melt our hearts when they lose, raise our spirits higher than possibly imaginable when they win, and pull our hair out when they don't even try. So Parenting & Sport is for everyone of these moments, a blog that hopefully says "I am going through the same things that you are" whilst at the same time offering a professional coaches perspective on what is going on and what you can do about it. 

PE with Jo in the front room. Pyjamas, leggings, trackie bums - it doesn't matter!

Parent or Coach? How can I be both whilst we are stuck indoors..

During the next few weeks I hope to cover a few areas that hopefully will be good for the kids at home as they bounce off the walls. Already the online space is being grabbed by a wide range of personal trainers, coaches, yoga instructors and many more, who have all taken to social media to help us stay motivated for the first week of the lock down. My family have taken to PE with Jo Wicks like everyone else and have loved his energy and ideas each morning. My wife has signed up to a bar class with my daughter for £8 and enjoyed that experience. I have decided to set myself a running challenge! However you choose to do it, there seems to be a wide range if ways to stay fit in your home and try to alleviate the boredom in some way. Hopefully you are getting involved with your kids and enjoying the time that you spend exercising together or trying out new things. 

But what if your kids enjoy technical sports, or sports that require specific spaces to play in? Are these sports going to go to the back of the pile as we all take up gym classes instead? Well that might well happen if we all do what's easiest or go with the majority. We might not lose our technical sports right now, but we do run the risk of losing kids interests to other things when they cant play their chosen sports or worse, we stand a chance that they prefer the online community on the Xbox rather than wanting to carry on playing tennis when we get back to normal. 

So how can we solve this problem and make sure that our kids interest in football, tennis, or golf doesn't fall away? The answer unfortunately is that we as parents have to enter unfamiliar territory! We have to become the trainer or coach to make these sports work for our kids. Usually we can get away with the easier jobs of driving the car to the courts, paying for the classes or cheering on from the sidelines, but this scenario is asking us for a bit more. In my opinion, we need to really get our hands dirty and give it a go!

Don't panic! You don't have to be brilliant at football or tennis to make this work. Coaching isnt always about feeding skills, interactive play or technical advice. The kind of coach that a parent can become should offer our children a chance to enjoy their progress with their favourite sports as well as see some development in their level of play. 

Here are a few suggestions below that might help get your week busy with some extra sports activities in the garden, indoors or if you can escape to the park together for an hour. 

1. Plan a programme 
All the parents I know are really good at planning the activities for their children each week. Sometimes, it is almost military in its structure, timing and content. Its also great for the kids as they work better with a schedule, look forward to their favourite classes and can see their weekly improvement. During the lock down, there is no reason not to have this structure and plan the classes the same way. It can start each day with PE with Jo or it can be a little more sports specific with things such as tennis skills on Tuesdays and Thursdays for example. Or you can try and replicate their weekly classes with similar activities on the same days. So if for example, tennis is usually on Thursdays at 4pm then why not leave it there and find some tennis skills for them to practice at the same time they usually play.  Programming can also factor in some competitions each week. Maybe a skills test, a timed physical exercise that they have been practicing or a little game in the garden against each other. It doesn't have to be rocket science stuff but its good to be trying to keep the idea of competition going if they like it and are used to doing it. 

2. Join In 
If you are not sure about your skill level don't worry! I think my family have really been enjoying the various games that we have been playing so far but mostly because we are doing them together. Have a go at playing tennis or joining in the skills you have found on You Tube or Instagram. Or try and do a little bit of exercise together and see how it makes you feel. You might discover something that you like for yourself such as yoga, skipping or a HIIT class that you can carry on without your kids after this is all over!

3. Don't push hard 
I have started to work with Freddie on his football this week and we don't always have an easy time of it. If I start to ask him to do things he can't do, he always gives up way quicker for me than for any of his coaches. This creates a tricky dilemma for us all during these coming weeks - especially if you have performance players that need to maintain or even build fitness. Do you force the issue to make sure things are done correctly or become a bit more laid back and risk some bad habits coming in. My suggestion is to not push at all as a parent at the beginning. Be the person setting the exercise, be the stopwatch, be the hi-5 at the end. Try not to push too hard and most importantly make it fun. You are far more likely to see a response from this manner than if you make an effort to pick holes in the technique or the effort levels. As time goes by, you might be able to up the amount of time spent on a particular exercise, or you may find more challenging tasks that you can set. 

4. Work on weaknesses
With limited space it makes sense to make a list of things that you could consider "weaknesses" and try to see if you can work on these in the next few weeks. Freddie's right foot is a good example - he needs to develop co-ordination in this and we can do this a small space through repetition. He might even get more practice of these skills than he would do normally. A one handed backhand volley in tennis is another one that could be worked on in a small space. On the flip side, weaknesses can be frustrating to work on, so start small and try to end with a game of something fun (it can be a different sport as well) or a reward of some kind to keep them coming back for more. 

Its never easy getting the balance right between being a parent and a coach!
These 4 ideas are hopefully things that will give you some food for thought. I totally understand that some players have more space to operate that others as well. It could be that you need to use online videos or other resources to help you get your children engaged in the sports that cant be played right now. I found a video of Federer vs Nadal the other day and loved watching the start of that rivalry (Nadal won quite easily for the record). 

Whatever you end up doing,  I hope you enjoy it. These are very strange times and I think the main thing that I have learned this week is to accept that we are all operating as different people right now. We have to take on roles that might never have been ours, ones that we would have usually given to a professional teacher, coach or trainer. It might not be easy to start with, but the time we spend now might have a big influence on what goes on in the future, and at least we can look back fondly to the extra time we spent with our children helping them practice in the garden.

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