shoe-carrier-1433922Convincing Parents of the Value of Sport and Recreation

Parents are often the gate-keepers to sport participation within diverse communities. Without their support and understanding, it is extremely challenging for diverse young people to participate in sport and recreation – particularly on a long term basis.

A key challenge for those developing sport programmes targeted at diverse young people is convincing their parents of the value of sport and recreation.

The Connecting with Diversity Toolkit research found that it can sometimes be challenging convincing parents of the value of sport. For example:

  • Some parents do not understand the benefits of sport and recreation participation can have on their child’s wider development.
  • Many new migrants place priority on their children’s education and can view sport as a distraction to this priority.
  • Some parents place value on their children’s time through completing chores, contributing to the family income and helping with childcare. Sport participation may not be considered a priority.
  • Many parents also face financial challenges as new migrants and may find the cost of sport a barrier. Some parents may consider transport to different venues difficult also.
  • Some overseas literature identifies a fear of racial intolerance as a key barrier to participation in sport. Some parents may fear this for their children and not recognise sport’s ability to connect them with their community and expose their children to a wider support group of friends, mentors, and role models.


Tips for communicating the value of sport:

  • Recognise that some parents may never show up at the club or field, so you may need to find a way of engaging with their broader community first. Read more tips on how to connect with the wider community.
  • Work through a local school. Schools can be a good ally in educating parents about the benefits of sport and recreation, and how to get their children involved.
  • Once contact is established with parents, the key is to communicate the benefits of sport. Our Parent’s Guide to Sport can help you do this. Ongoing communication with the family about the benefits of sport will ultimately mean that the parents can see and understand the benefits in their own children. As a result, parents will witness the value of sport and evolve into advocates for children’s participation.
  • It is equally important to equip children with the necessary knowledge and skills to be able to answer parents’ questioning. Consider giving young people a copy of the Parent’s Guide to Sport and explain the benefits of sport and recreation to them too.
  • Learnings from Connect2sport programmes indicate that while cost is a difficult thing to get right, parents are prepared to pay a small fee if they really value the programme. Read our tips for setting the right price for your programme. You can also consider offering discounts or monthly payment plans to ease the cost barrier for parents – or for those who can simply not afford to pay develop a participant funding model similar toSport Otago and Sport Canterbury’s Sporting Chance mode. For more ideas on managing the challenge of cost read Connect2sport’s case study on pricing structures.
  • To remove barriers associated with transport try to ensure your programmes are a delivered at a time and venue that suits diverse young people and their parents. Make sure your venue is local and easy to access, and is a space they feel familiar and comfortable with. Deliver at a location and time of day that feels safe and is easy to commit to. Parents want to know that their children will be safe coming to and from the programme. Read more tips on delivering at the right time and place.
  • Alleviate parents’ concerns around racial intolerance by creating a welcoming culture. Consider working with ethnic community leaders to think about the best ways to do this or look for current members with bilingual or multilingual skills to help out as volunteers. Think about developing clear anti-discrimination and equality policies and approaching your regional sports organisation about obtaining inter-cultural training. Read more tips on improving tolerance in the Connecting with Diversity Toolkit. Also promote the wider benefits of sport and recreation to parents, including sport’s ability to connect them with their community and exposes their children to a wider support group of friends, mentors, and role models. Our Parent’s Guide to Sport outlines these benefits in more detail.


Encouraging parents to become involved in their children’s participation

Another challenge for those developing sport programmes targeted at diverse young people is encouraging parents to become involved in their children’s participation.

The Connecting with Diversity Toolkit research also found that some migrant parents may have limited experience with how sport is set up and played in New Zealand. For example:

  • Parents of diverse young people often have limited knowledge of the sports facilities and programmes on offer or who to contact to get their child involved. They may appreciate the benefits of sport and recreation and want their child to be active but not understand the pathways available.
  • Some ethnic migrants may not understand that clubs function largely on the input of volunteers, who are players or the players’ parents donating their time for free.
  • Many have no experience of belonging to New Zealand sports clubs and do not understand the club’s expectations such as supporting their children at games, helping out with transport, buying equipment and uniforms and providing fruit at half time.
  • Some parents may be used to a ‘pay for play’ approach where a child will turn up, pay the coach for the session, and the coach does all the organising – a contrast to the main-stream New Zealand approach.

Tips for encouraging parents to become involved:

  • Try to explain the different ways in which parents can get their children involved in sport and recreation. Our Parent’s Guide to Sport provides a good summary to start with.
  • Try to think of age appropriate advice. Sport NZ’s Guide for Parents is a great reference and provides parents’ guidance for zero to five year olds and five to twelve year olds.
  • Suggest small ways parents can be more involved with their children’s participation, such as sharing transport, coming to a few games or providing fruit at half time.
  • Explain to parents how the programme or club runs and explain clearly any non-negotiables for the club or programme such as fees, buying equipment and uniforms.
  • Explain the concept of volunteers – that volunteers manage and coach, get out gear, run the cafe, administer and govern the club, and help fundraise. Ask parents if they can or would like to help in any of these roles. Try not to add too much pressure. If interest is shown, be prepared to mentor them, or find them a support person.
  • Consider developing volunteer training programmes targeted at diverse communities. Consider offering these at no cost in recognition that these opportunities help build the capacity of the community and contribute towards the long term sustainably of your programmes.