What's it like to be a sports parent?

Last updated: 04 Oct 2023 Topics: Safeguarding children Elite athletes

Parents often play a pivotal role in children’s sport. By providing practical, financial, and emotional support, parents help children to safely participate in and enjoy their sporting experience.

It’s important for sport and activity providers to work alongside parents to ensure safeguarding is actively practised and promoted in a club, and to help build an inclusive environment where children can thrive.

To find out more about what it’s like to be a parent of a child in sport, we spoke to Camiel, a mum of three children who are all involved in sport at various levels.

What is your experience as a parent in sport?

“I have two sons, age 13 and 11. My 13-year-old is at club level, training up to 12 hours a week. My 11-year-old is at elite level, training 30+ hours a week. I also have a daughter who trains gymnastics for 1 hour a week; however, she may go on to do another sport in the future.

“Being a parent in sport has been a journey. I’ve found that not all my children are the same level at each sport, but they all equally enjoy it. I talk to them everyday to make sure they’re still enjoying it, and I’m not pushy as I don’t think that helps. I want my children to feel they can tell me anything. I’ve been very lucky to have a child that has been picked for the GB Gymnastics Squad, so it makes all the hard work worth it.

“Being involved in sport has also been challenging at times. It’s very time consuming for the family, and it can be hard financially, but I do all I can to make sure my children can still get involved. As a parent, I also have to fight battles regarding the politics or the more emotional side of sport. The opportunities are slim and I have to support my children through the ups and downs, including when they are angry, upset, or even injured.”

What would you look for when choosing a sport or activity for your child and why is this important for you?

“I like my children to be involved in sport, but I give them the choice over which sport they want to do. For instance, I did not choose gymnastics for my kids – I took my middle son to a parent and toddler gymnastics group one day to burn off some energy, and he loved it. He was spotted and asked to trial and we haven’t left since.

“My eldest son also decided to give gymnastics a go, and with being here all the time, my daughter kept saying “nastics, nastics” too! So, she is involved as well. I’ve told my children they are free to choose whatever sports the like – my eldest son has decided he wants to be a professional gamer. It’s important to me that they choose something they will enjoy so that they will want to take it as far as they can.”

How do you know the sports club or activity are safe and doing what they can to protect your child for any possible harm?

“I make sure to talk to my children all the time. There may be things they might not tell me, but when it comes to the gym, we talk about everything. If there’s an issue, most of the time we talk about it first and then we tell the coach. I often talk to the coach to try and find out more information and a plan, and then I might stay for a few weeks to assess the situation myself.

“I have told my children that if they are asked to keep things quiet from their mum then they must tell me straight away. I’d like to think this helps keep them safe and alerts me when they’re not.

“I regularly check in with the coach at the end of each session to find out how the session was and how my child is doing.”

As a parent, how would you like your club or activity to clearly promote safeguarding policies and procedures to everyone?

“I would like for a club to send out regular communication, such as once a quarter or every six months, regarding their safeguarding policies and maybe a link to more information. This means that if there are any concerns, parents can go to this email or message right away and see what they need to do.

“There also needs to always be a way for parents to access safeguarding policies as soon as they need them, as we don’t always want to speak directly to members of staff.”

What can a club do to make sure parents are listened to and feel heard if they have a concern or would like to discuss anything?

“As a parent, it’s important to see our club is listening to us and acting on concerns. For example, if a concern is raised about say, bullying, in the club, the club need to actively promote that bullying goes against the club’s policies and will not be tolerated. They would also need to tackle the issue head on to get to the route of the problem. It would also be good for parents to regularly meet with the coaches and club to discuss any problems.

“I feel that by acting in this way would help to ensure parents can see they are being heard and that the club are taking their views seriously. Even if the club may not think it is a serious issue, parents and children can be impacted by things differently. It’s important that the club takes any issues seriously, however small the concern.”