So your kids have shown an interest in playing sport. But which one do you choose for them? We are lucky in South-East Queensland and northern New South Wales to have the right kind of weather to enjoy outdoor sport as well as such a vibrant and diverse sporting community. To help you sort through the options, haven has spoken to five key sporting organisations for their take on what makes their sport the best and most rewarding choice for your kids.
SURF LIFE SAVING
There’s nothing better than the beach on the weekend. If your family is inclined to visit the sand and surf regularly, why not sign up the kids to a surf life saving club? Not only does nippers offer brilliant fitness on a training ground of sand, salt water and fresh air, learning how to be safe in the surf is a life skill that all kids should learn at an early age. In fact, as Mutri-Grain Ironman Wes Burg will tell you, there are actually a host of important life skills that nippers will learn through their sport that they can carry with them throughout their lives.
Wes says Burleigh Heads Surf Club in particular is passionate about being a family friendly surf club. “It is an amazing lifestyle,” he says.
Tell us a little bit about how you started in your sport?
I started nippers when I was 5. My parents wanted me to have an understanding of the ocean. They also told me if I wanted to surf, which I was always bugging them to do, I had to join nippers. It was from there I fell in love with the sport and went on to become a professional by age 16.
In your opinion, why is it important for kids to play sport, in general?
Besides that sport encourages a healthy and active lifestyle and lets us enjoy the outdoors, sport develops a huge amount of traits that carry over into everyday life. The most important thing about sport isn’t whether you are talented or grow up to be a champion, but the traits it allows kids to develop as they go including commitment, participation, determination and how to deal with challenges as well as friendship and goal setting. Those above traits can set kids up to overcome any challenges they may face in life.
What makes your sport the perfect choice for juniors?
Surf life saving is the perfect sport for juniors as it teaches kids about the ocean and surf safety. The ocean is one of the most beautiful things we as Australians are lucky enough to enjoy and it’s free for all to use. Surf safety is so important – for kids to be able to be safe at the beach and for parents to have peace of mind when their kids want to go to the beach alone as they get older.
What skills or talent does a child need to be successful in your sport?
Surf life saving is unique in the sense that everyone who joins has the opportunity to compete at a state or even national level. You don’t have to be selected – you get the chance to compete at the top level each year. Also, being an ocean sport, a lot of the skills don’t come naturally like kicking a football, so all kids start at the same level and train and learn the skills as they go giving the majority the chance to succeed. A swimming background is, however, a big advantage in our sport.
Do you believe kids need to start your sport by a certain age to achieve at an elite level? What is the perfect age for a child to start in your sport and why?
Doing nippers would set you up to reach the elite professional level and provide the easiest path. The younger kids start, the more familiar they become and the more likely they are to accelerate quickly.
Do you have any tips for keeping kids motivated to participate in any chosen sport?
Always make it fun. Get involved as a parent and lead by example. Keep it enjoyable for them – if they fall in love with a sport, it won’t become a chore.
As a coach of Burleigh Heads Surf Club, I have always been a big believer in keeping it enjoyable. The hard work needs to be done and there are no short cuts to hard work but, as a coach, you can make it enjoyable. I try to keep sessions interesting, provide a good vibe during training and an overall positive outlook.
If there’s an adult newcomer who is interested in starting in your sport, what advice do you have for them?
Give it a go. Our sport is lucky enough to have many disciplines so there is room for all levels and abilities to enjoy the sport of Ironman/surf life saving at any age.
Who are some of the most famous local exports in your sport and what level of achievement have they reached in their careers?
The Nutri-Grain Ironmen and Ironwomen are the best 16 male and females in the country and we are lucky enough to have the majority of them living and training on the Gold Coast. Shannon Eckstien, Zane Holmes, Courtney Hancock and Liz Pluimers, Tanyn Lyndon and Ben Carberry to name a few. The best thing about our sport is that you get to train alongside these names when you join a local surf club.