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Supporting children on their return to sport

I am sure in many houses around the world excitement is mounting as restrictions are lifted and some sports under new conditions are starting to allow children to train again. It has been a long slog and I am sure for lots of parents and coaches this cannot come soon enough.

There is no doubting that Covid-19 will have had an impact on all of us and our children, for some in a more positive or negative way than others. As we head back towards some form of normal routine, we should not underestimate the impact it may have had on our young people.

As they return to sport, some may be very nervous about seeing people again, some maybe anxious that their performance levels may have dropped, and some may well not display the same enthusiasm that they once showed.

I am sure there will be many young sportspeople who simply will get back and soon enough fall back into their usual routine and behaviours.

We all still have a choice however and just because restrictions are being lifted does not mean that it sits comfortably with everyone. You must feel comfortable as a family that returning to your children’s sport is the right thing to do, regardless of the pressure that you may feel from others. This is difficult I know for both parents and children, but the choice is there for you.

During this period some will have used the time to do plenty of exercise, some will have enjoyed the break from normal routine and perhaps experienced the opportunity to do some different things.

For us as parents we need to understand that each child will be unique and have different feelings, concerns or views on their return to sport.

The first thing that we can do is have some positive conversations with them and ask them how they are feeling and what their views are on returning to sport?

If we really listen to their responses, we will be able to start thinking about how we can best support them. For example, a number of parents have been in touch through the lockdown concerned that their child’s performance may be dropping and worried that they are going to get left behind.

Children often see the world through a very different set of lenses to adults and our ability to get on to their wavelength will be crucial in supporting them back into their regular routines.

The reality is that everybody has been in the same boat and many have been doing their very best to make the best out of a challenging situation. We should not be beating ourselves up at this time and I really feel that it is now in everyone’s interests to try and plan a positive route ahead without looking too much into the past.

We need to look forwards now and focus on some of the things that we are ultimately in control of. What we have all learnt during the lockdown process is how we may not have as much control over things as we have previously thought.

We can all help our children with their routine, the planning of their time, their nutrition, their sleep, their exercise and we can let them know that whatever they achieve will be fine by us. Now is not the time to have too many expectations and we must do all that we can to dial down any pressure on them as they start to find their feet back in the world again.

What we are also in control of is focusing on the key character traits and life skills in our children, this should be the benchmark for us anyway as sporting parents but now more than ever it needs to be the focus of our time and energy. Processes rather than outcomes has never been more important.

If our children are nervous or hesitant, reminding them of some of the positives of their previous experiences will help build confidence and getting in touch with other members of the group prior to the first training session may help ease some of the social anxiety.

As always, our role modelling will be key, sharing our own concerns with our children is fine and where possible showing our own sense of calm and confidence will help our children soon find their feet.

Before we know it, I am sure we will all be back on the hamster wheel and whilst Covid-19 will be with us for some time yet it may not always be at the forefront of our minds.

Gordon MacLelland is the CEO and founder of Working with Parents in Sport, which supports parents and coaches in working together to provide children with the best possible sporting experiences. To find out more about their work please visit


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