A personal tribute to sports parenting

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
Liz Breslin pays tribute to Sports Parents that she's seen and been.

Liz Breslin
Liz Breslin
Most parents I know are Sports Parents in some way, shape or form. They put their infants in their backpacks and then their toddlers between their knees to steer them down snowy slopes. They rumble, equidistant, across orienteering courses.

They coach their kids' teams in their own favourite sports because they know that's the way to keep the sports going.

They support their kids in sports they know nothing about, because their kids are keen. They make time even when it's hard to find. They pass balls and balls and balls.

I am not a natural sports person or Sports Parent. I am better with books and often tempted to sneak away to turn a few pages. But I've learned so much from watching and playing. So this week, here's my tribute to Sports Parents that I've seen and been.


To be a Pony Club Parent, you need the following: Sunlight soap, hands that can do intricate plaits, a persistent alarm clock for 5am starts, more Sunlight soap, a good method for removing stubborn short hair from everything, patience, more Sunlight soap, high standards, hay before you think you're going to need it, a float, a car to pull the float, a heck of a lot of diesel, a tackbox with all the spares for all the gear that never really makes it out of the car and the float, more Sunlight soap, high-energy snacks for inevitable meltdowns and, of course, a pony.

All this is sometimes worth it when you watch your scrubbed upright child and tightly-plaited, Sunlight-soaped pony jump or circle or get ribbons, together. Note: child and pony can also be very happy in a paddock or on a beach, together.


I love netball. I wrote a tribute to one of my best friends called Love in a time of netball. But then I also wrote a poem called "Whistleblower" when I was coaching the kids' netball team.

This is part of it:

for there has already been one punch up among the dads

for this is hearsay to me

for I was looking the other way, screaming "come on Sting, you can do it, mark your players, yes, the other team, that's right, just three seconds, pass now, space, space, space out Sting."

for I would not want to verify this incident with the mothers

for I am verily afraid of them

for they have the practised ability to know what to wear to games

for I am the only coach in a fedora

for sometimes I accessorise this with hi tops and a hangover

for who schedules sport on a Saturday before ten?

for I think I know the answer to this

for they are there, with their clipboards and performance polyester

for they play up and play the game

Hawea Sting. We floated like butterflies and stung like bees and we were more into teamwork and fun than the scoreboard, which appeared to go against the grain of the game. But then, they were 9 years old, so. I still have the silver plastic trophy on a pink paper-covered cardboard box that they made me, and the whistle on a pink string.


I like watching them smile and chuck a shaka at the other Surf Parents in the car park or in the whitewash, pushing small bodies on small boards on to small waves and cheering as they stand up.

Surf Parenting seems like the chillest of all Sports Parent environments to me, but that's possibly because I haven't personally progressed to the part where you take them out in freezing, shark-infested, rock-ringed reef waters, competitively baiting the same waves.

I only get to be the Supporting Sports Parent in that regard, and therefore have ample time to rearrange my face from fear to that's-nice-dear.


We punch and kick with our kids. Sometimes we punch and kick our kids. It's the best.


This is my latest foray into Sports Parenting - I'm not even a season in, and I flipping love it. Though I am mildly terrified of the one-a-minute concussion possibilities, I'm impressed how seriously they're taught to take it. I love the teamwork of the team, the staunch fun of it all, the running commentary/encouragement of the students on the sidelines who can't wait to get back on and play.

I like folding my arms over my hot water bottle, watching the action unfold under the floodlights. I love my daughter with a wide smile and dirty knees. And I only very occasionally think about the next chapter, page folded over, in the car, waiting to be read.


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