How can you get a shy child interested in team sport? Former Australian Cricket Captain, Michael Clarke gives his advice, and reveals how social sports can build confidence, trust, friendships and life-long values in our kids – while having fun too, of course!
Australian Cricket Captain, Michael Clarke, has teamed up with MILO to find stories about Aussie kids everyday sporting achievements. The MILO Valuable Player (MVP) aims to encourage parents around the country to nominate their kids for things like fair-play, sportsmanship and teamwork. The program invites parents to nominate their kids so they can be honoured as good sports and celebrate the different values of teamwork, confidence, commitment, leadership, positivity and sportsmanship. The aim? To teach the next generation of sporting youngsters that sport (and consequently life) should not be about winning or losing, but how you play. Here’s Michael’s advice…
Q. With kids’ ‘screen time’ on the increase, why is active outdoor play and social sports so important?
A. “Sport for young girls and boys is very important. We need more kids playing sport. I think we all know there is an obesity problem in Australia so it’s very important we keep kids as active as possible. Entertainment is a huge part of anyone’s life, especially a young boy or a girl. And playing sport is extremely entertaining – they have the opportunity to meet new friends, it gets them active – there’s so many great life values associated with sport. We talk a lot about team work – I don’t think there’s many better things that I have learnt in my life than being in a team and being able to deal with different people and learning from others.”
Q. Shy children can be very reluctant to join a team. What advice do you have?
A. “That’s the hardest thing for kids at a young age, but sport can actually help shyness in a positive way. When I was at school and I had to do public speaking and I absolutely hated it – I was so intimidated, shy and scared to talk in front of other people. Now, I actually really enjoy it. And it’s not because I’ve gone and done courses. It’s because I did it – I was put in a position that was out of my comfort zone and it didn’t feel natural or comfortable. But the more you do it, the better you become at it. Similarly, I had to change schools at a young age and that was so intimidating – having to leave my old friends and make new friends. But two days into it, I loved my new school. I think the fear is worse than when you are actually there.
“I think parents should look at the positives of sport and what it can do for their children. Don’t forget that they are not the only child that is feeling shy or intimidated. The more they can be around other kids the better – it doesn’t take long before they connect with somebody, form a friendship, then they have two friends, then three and four and more, and they are begging their mum and dad to take them to sport.”
Q. What about children beginning a new sport mid-term and feeling overwhelmed because the other children already have sports skills?
A. “I don’t think there are many sports where you will walk in and see the level of the Australian Netball Team or Australian Cricket Team – especially at a young age. There are a lot of beginners and people learning their craft at that age. It’s more about the entertainment and having fun. It doesn’t need to be about winning or losing – it can be about allowing your child to get outside, be active, play the sport they love and have fun. Whether they are good or not doesn’t matter – the only way they are going to get better is by having an opportunity. And I think that’s a really important role for the coach – giving everyone a chance, a go, a bowl, to kick the football or the soccer ball. That’s what team sport is all about – giving all these young kids a chance to do what they love doing. Whether they are good or not is irrelevant.”
Q. Children don’t like losing. Any advice for parents?
A. “Whether you like it or not, ‘losing’ happens – that’s life. And it’s certainly sport. No matter how good you are, no matter what level you get to, you are going to lose. And I think the greatest lessons I’ve learnt throughout my career are the times I have lost or haven’t been successful.”
“From a young age, people need to understand and respect that in sport, there is going to be a winner and there is going to be a loser. If you can respect that, it allows you to try your best. Yes, you are disappointed that you didn’t perform as good as you would have liked, but also understand that it is just a game.”
“That’s the other thing about sport – and I say this regularly to our team through tough times – it is just a game. We play it because it’s a game. It’s not your job, you play it because you love it. And that’s what sport is and should be remembered for.”
Q. Encouraging perseverance – what should parents do when kids want to throw in the towel?
A. “I can’t sit here and try to tell parents how to do their job, but in a team, every day there are challenges. And every person faces those and that’s the lesson of life. You get knocked down and you get back up, and if you love or enjoy something you shouldn’t stop because you are not very good at it or you haven’t had successes. That makes it a greater challenge – the exciting part of life. Parents can talk about their own journey through life too – we all have days where we’d like to quit things. But to be successful at them, you can’t give up. It’s getting through the tough times that makes you stronger.”
Q. How does sport instil confidence in kids?
A. “The more you do something, the better you get at it. The more you are around others, the more you can learn from them and lean on them for help. When I think about myself as a youngster, something that always stuck with me was when you get knocked down, to be able to have your team mate there to pick you up and support you – they are special memories that live with you forever. That doesn’t just build confidence in your sport, that builds confidence in your life – to know that you have family and friends to rely on and trust. You need that in your life. And if you can start that at a young age, you’re heading in the right place.”
Visit here more info on the MVP program.