Meet: Sion Eifion Jones
From: North Wales, UK
Role : U19 Head Coach at Porthmadog & Performance Analyst Intern with Manchester City FC Academy
Can you give us a bit of background information on yourself?
I am a 25 year old coach currently working in the US as a professional soccer coach for Challenger Sports UK. I have recently gained a 2.1 undergraduate degree in Sports Coaching and will be starting a Sports and Exercise/Coaching Studies masters postgraduate course in September 2016. Having recently been crowned as British trophy champions as head coach of Manchester Metropolitan University men’s team I have now taken up the position of head coach with Porthmadog FC’s Under 19’s team in the Welsh Premier Development League. I have also recently been appointed as a Performance Analyst Intern with Manchester City FC Academy, working with the under 18’s side.
How would you define a parent(s) role within the youth sports environment?
I think support is the key word when defining a parent’s role within the youth sports environment. Understanding the need to support your child in a correct manner is vital to ensure the best development. However, more often than not the support is either done incorrectly or isn’t done at all which leads to a negative development of the child. I would put lack of parent education as the main reason for this behavior.
What are the benefits of embracing parental involvement within youth sports?
By embracing parental involvement within youth sports it ensures that all parties (parents, coaches, children) are working towards the same outcome and are working within the same guidelines. Through accepting the involvement of parents you can (as a coach) promote the correct behaviour of parents through coaching clinics etc. This, in turn, increases education and knowledge of parents of their responsibilities within a youth sports environment. It also creates a positive environment for both coaches and parents, which increases the level of enjoyment for the children themselves.
How have you as a coach/club attempted to increase parental involvement?
As previously stated, I am currently working in the US, running week long soccer camps. Due to only having a week with each group of children/parents, I use communication as the main avenue to promote a positive involvement of parents within youth sports. This is done mainly through coaching clinics with the parents themselves. Within the clinics, awareness is raised on how parents can support youth development in soccer in a positive manner. One key message that is highlighted within the clinics is that every behaviour has a consequence, that being a positive or a negative one. Through role play and an explanation of various situations, out hope is to promote understanding of these various consequences to ensure the removal of any negative behaviour from parents in future sporting environments. I do also promote ‘The Sporting Influencer’ blog on my travels to ensure that parents read and increase their knowledge even further.
What challenges have you faced by attempting to increase the level of parental involvement?
There have been many challenges when attempting to increase parental involvement within youth sport. One main issue is the parents lack of acceptance to understand how they can positively influence their children within youth sports. This is often the case when parents have been heavily involved within sports themselves and want their child to re-live their sporting past through their sporting environments. This often occurs when parents have had a negative experience of sport themselves and aim to change this through their child’s involvement within the game. This creates pressure on the child and in turn affects the child’s lack of enjoyment within the game.
Have you seen a difference in youth athletes when parental involvement is embraced not neglected and/or ignored?
Yes, when parents embrace involvement in a positive manner I have no doubt it has a great impact on youth sport. Through positively supporting their children, parents can ensure that their children are learning within a non-pressurised environment. I recently worked with a child who was very concerned about injuring himself within the game. One of his parents was an ex-professional and would always run on the field when the child would go down injured to re-assure him. After a personal meeting with the parent, it was agreed that the parent would not enter the field of play to support his child when injured unless it was of course a serious situation. This was done to ensure that the player wasn’t dependant of his parents support every time he suffered any type of fall or injury. The first time the child went down following the meeting, the child immediately looked to his parent for comfort. As the parent didn’t come over the child got up after some 30 seconds and carried on with the game. This became a pattern for the next few days during the games and in turn had a very positive effect on the child’s game. This is a great example of how parent education can ensure a positive development within youth sports.
What advice would you give coaches that are unsure and/or afraid about increasing parental involvement within youth sports?
Without accepting involvement, no impact can be made on issues that surround parental involvement within youth sport. While accepting that there are issues with parent’s involvement an attempt can be made to remove these issues. Promote education and ensure that both parents and children are involved in a positive working environment.
For those parents unaware of their influential role within youth sports, what advice would you give them?
Never, ever stop educating yourself on your role as a parent within youth sport as you can never stop learning. It is also important to note that the game is ever changing and that as a parent you should always be open to change and new ideas with your child to ensure a positive development.
What is next for you as a coach / club / organisation?
While involved in youth soccer I will always attempt to promote parent education in a positive manner. I will also be promoting and spreading the word on ‘The Sporting influencer’ in as many clubs/organisation as I can!
You can find more about Coach Sion on these social media outlets:
Thank you Sion for taking the time to complete the following interview questions.
The Sporting Influencer