Hi and thank you
Thanks for taking your time to read about my story. A story of why I developed such a passion for keeping children in sport long term.
As you can see from above image, sport has been a big part of my life. It has kept me active and healthy. It has also taught me many life skills. I have developed amazing relationships. I got friends from a wide range of cultures and countries.
I am one of the lucky ones growing up with a lot of free play. It allowed me to develop an intrinsic motivation for sport.
When I read statistics about youth today, it makes me so sad. Sad to see the high numbers of suicides, depression, obesity. Well, I don’t need to tell you I am sure you are aware if you have children. I am sure you have your own concerns at times. Here is a link to Beyond Blue if you are interested in learning more.
I found a new way supportive of children's active life
(Right: Photo of me photographing futsal)
The birth of Active Illustrated
My passion for photography grew when my children started to play sport. I mainly photographed my son’s sport. Parents and clubs where too sensitive if taking photos of girls when my daughter played.
I have photographed over 900 soccer & futsal games. This has provided me with an opportunity to view youth sport from a different lens. When I watch my children, I mainly focus on them. But when I take photos, I observe everyone, including parents and coaches.
Left: Photo of my daughter (long before her teenage years).
I became interested in how negative behaviours of adults affected children in sport. So, during 2017 I began to research the subject and what I found shocked me.
I had to share it with other parents and coaches.
This is what happened. My life as a dad changed to a sports parent, when then my 11-year-old son, got spotted as a “talented” goalkeeper. You see, I was happy for him to enjoy sport and me and my wife never had any expectation.
He had tried tennis but didn’t like it. He started playing Australian Rules Football (footy) when he was 6. Then he played both footy and soccer at the same time for a few years. He played soccer in a local club for fun. This was an amateur club, not registered with Football Federation of South Australia.
This changed the day he got spotted as a “talent”. A coach told us that our son was talented. He should play on a higher level if he is going to develop”. So, 3 nervous trial days later, he got a spot in U12 JSL (B-team). This was in a competitive environment which had a strong focus on development. This club had a senior team playing in the highest South Australian division. This was very important for our son to develop, they told us.
A couple of months later he also qualified to be one of 12 goalkeepers to play in the State development squad. It is during this time I saw my son go from having fun, to a competitive boy only focusing on improving himself. He trained 5 days a week plus game day in U12. We were told that “if he is going to make it, this is what he needs to do”
I remember, the team won the league at U13, but he never enjoyed the trainings. The coach only had demands on performance and were negative most of the time. Most players didn't enjoy this season even though they became the Champions.
So, what is it all about?
That question was not on my mind at the time. I was too emotionally involved in his development. I lost the perspective on his life as a whole. At one stage, we were even requested to scan his wrist to see if he will grow enough to qualify as a keeper. Otherwise, they would not waste their time developing him in the state squad. The scan told us he could continue. PHEW! OKAY, he is on the way to make it now! Family birthdays was now a 2nd priority.
I was thinking a lot about how I could help him getting better. I wanted him to fulfill his dream which now had developed to play in Europe.
Below: photo of my son in his early years in sport
Then finally! something inside me felt it was wrong.
I started to be more observant of adults around the game. Parents were arguing with the opposition parents because of a referee decision. Parents changed clubs because they felt their son/daughter is better. They felt that their child should play in a better team. Parents were driving 1 hour, one way, across the city 3 times per week to get their children to practice.
So, what is it all about?
When the question popped into my head again, I reached out on the social media.
“Have anyone done any research into adult behaviours around youth sport?”
Sport Scientist and teacher, Gordon MacLelland was the first to respond. He had just started “Working with Parents in Sport (WWPIS)” in UK. This was the catalyst to bring in more expertise and seek more information. This was the time when “Off the Pitch with Active” podcast was born. To share knowledge to a wide audience.
Shortly after this, the idea of Yellow for Yelling became realised. This was a good vehicle to create an awareness of the problem. I continue to seek collaborations around the world with experts in this field.
Thanks for your interest reading about my journey. Everyone has a story, and I would love to hear yours!