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Tip 3 - Family support

The ‘familial advantage’ — parental and sibling influence on skill development

Research is finding that early sporting experiences with family and friends are instrumental to sporting skill development and later sporting expertise. The current AIS research project My Sporting Journey and the Australian Research Council Linkage Project ‘Sporting Talent’ are finding that parents are great early skill educators as a ‘fellow participant’ and provide numerous types of support. Some of this support includes setting up home developmental environments, helping with physical preparation, emotional and financial support, technical advice and providing access to appropriate coaching.

Recent findings from the My Sporting Journey project — featuring 440 senior international-level Australian athletes from 61 Olympic, Paralympic and professional sports — showed a high percentage of these athletes had parents and/or siblings who also excelled in the same sport and other sports. That certainly shows a strong ‘familial advantage’!

Current research also demonstrates that for female athletes, playing with their brothers and male friends in their foundational years is a strong contributor to later sporting success. Playing with male peers not only provides an avenue for skill progression, enhanced mental toughness, fitness and physical robustness, but they can also be supportive and motivating.

Importantly family sporting play also encourages parents to participate and fosters positive family dynamics between parent and child.

Classic examples of familial advantage include:

Multiple BMX world champion Caroline Buchanan rode and competed in BMX with her dad and her brother.

Rugby League Immortal Andrew Johns and his brother Mathew honed their legendary technical and tactical skills playing backyard football.

Australian cricketing brothers Shaun and Mitchell Marsh watched their father Geoff play Test cricket and had their own backyard cricket battles, where Mitchell was often relegated to bowling to his older brother.

AFL star Adam Goodes played soccer, cricket and Australian football in the backyard with his younger brothers (Coates, P 2005).

Pin icon TIP: Foster everyday sport activity and playtime at home and be an effective support provider

You can:

  • limit screen time at home
  • assist early skill development by joining in or foster deliberate play by exploring and making the most of your child’s home developmental environment inside and out! (see last tip for ideas)
  • be a sounding board, provide emotional support and positive encouragement
  • provide financial and travel support
  • offer technical advice, especially if you’ve played the same sport, or help your child find information
  • facilitate your child’s access to appropriate instruction and coaching.

If you are interested in becoming a coach check out these resources:

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Did you know?

Gold Coast 2018 is the 5th Commonwealth Games to be hosted by Australia.

Quick numbers

11.6 million Australian adults participate in sport or physical activity three or more times per week.
3.2 million Australian children participate in organised sport or physical activity outside of school.
$10 billion is spent annually by Australians on fees for participation in sport or physical activity.
17 million Australian adults participate in a sport or physical activity every year.