Written by Anna Bachrata (Bulldogs Brno) and Dagmar Heiland Travnikova (Masaryk University) / Czech Republic
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How to motivate kids in sport through their older and more experienced sports teammates
It is natural for children to identify themselves with behaviour patterns of their sports idols. Children typically learn through observation from various agents of socialization within the sports club, such as coaches, older club-mates or famous sports idols. In Bulldogs Brno floorball team we take it one step further and use the principle of “patrons”, in which more experienced club-mates influence and inspire the sports kids directly and face to face.
Since our birth, we tend to imitate the behaviour of other people around us, either intentionally, or often subconsciously. In the first years of our life, we copy the movements and gestures of our family members, who play the most important role during our whole life. As we grow, peers and friends, along with teachers and other educators, enter the process of forming our personality and life values. Therefore, it is very natural to search for life idols or even heroes who we could identify with.
Concept of patrons
In Bulldogs Brno floorball club, we aim to follow the common process of children identification with sports authorities or idols around them and we use the adult floorball players as “patrons” for the children and youth sports categories. This older peer cooperation and inspiration seems very effective. Patrons are active players (both male and female) of the junior or adult age top category who act as idols from both the sports and personality points of view. In most cases, the patrons come form the adult categories, and and only exceptionally a junior patron is selected (especially if the young athlete palys for the national team). The selection of the patrons is quite specific, only those who can inspire the kids and youth with their behaviour, attitude or performance on the pitch can become a patron.
Our sports club mascot is a bulldog and that is why we emphasise the character traits of this very special dog breed. Bulldogs are reliable, devoted, faithful and lively. They are deliberate, rarely nervous and full of energy. With these personality traits, the patrons inspire the young members of our pack.
What do patrons do
Patrons do not participate in each training session of children. A patron does not even act as a coach in every single game. Instead, we want the sports children to perceive this person as a diversification aspect of the training content. Before the training session, the coach informs the patron about the training plan and introduces the patron to the children. Patron works individually with each child and children are empowered to ask him or her any question they have. Our goal is to transfer the patron´s influence on the kids also to non-sports areas, such as schoolwork or selection of suitable sports equipment and its maintenance.
„It´s amazing when the female players from our A team visit our training. They teach us some tricks with the floorball stick and ball that maybe even our coaches can not do. I have my favourite female player and I like about her is that although she is very small. she can fight in the field as a real Bulldog girl!“Eliska, 10 years
Besides visiting the training sessions, patrons also transfer their sports experience and support the children during games. Therefore, they often visit the children’s and youth’s weekend tournaments. For the Bulldogs club it is important to share the club values and work connected with the club functioning. Helping with the organization of the weekend tournaments or visiting the games of other age categories is thus desirable. On the other hand, the youngest club members get inspired during the games of the elite categories. They learn to respect opponents and authorities, such as coaches or referees. Children should also be aware of the importance of a proper post-game or post-training stretching as well as thanking the fans and parents for their support.
Older teammates and peer influence on kids
Our concept of “patrons” is underlined by several authentic research results and theories which highlight the importance of the positive peer influence. Peers are defined as the most important relative group that often overtakes parents in the area of influence. For the youth, it is important to wear the right clothes, to listen to the right music or to behave in a certain trendy way, which may lead to a decreasing influence of coaches on the young athletes.
„When I was as old as the kids I had some favourite players in our male A Team but they never visited us during our training. I think they weren´t interested in us so much, which I was quite sorry about. I definitely don´t want our girl and boys to have similar feelings and that´s why I´m always happy to show up at the training of our kids and youth and take part in the training with them. During my last visit, I trained individual shooting only with three players and the coach was managing the rest of the team.“Matyas, 20 years
In order to make a complex insight into the possibilities of motivating kids, we as coaches should also realize that not only the peer athletes, but also elite sports idols play an important role in the formation of our young athletes. Unfortunately, not always in the positive way though… Roles of the Olympic champions are important, especially in the context of sports and internalisation of moral values. The elite athletes are however not always aware of the fact that their behavior even outside of sports events is carefully observed by children and youth. Youth coaches, or the patrons in our case, should be thus ready to talk about this phenomenon with the kids and point out the positive or negative aspects for their healthy sports progress and development!
„For our boys and girls it definitely is an attractive part of the training. They want to show their skills and hope that the patron will see them and praise them. I can definitely see that the patron´s praise has a stronger effect on kids than compliments from the coach!“Radim, 28 years
Anna Bachrata (Bulldogs Brno, Czech Republic).
Anna is a trainer and coach in Bulldogs Brno sports club. She has been responsible for girls categories aged 13-16 since 2015. She studies at the Faculty of Sports Studies, Masaryk University and aims to deepen her knowledge concerning sports psychology.
Dagmar Heiland Travnikova (Faculty of Sports Studies, Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic).
Dagmar´s areas of pedagogical and research interest include adapted physical activities, psychomotor games or social circus techniques. She gives workshops and seminars for national and international target audiences of a different age and background.
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