This week I was asked to give a presentation to parents at the Winston Salem Open. (I mention the WSO as it’s a really great event and I would encourage you to put the date in your diary for 2017 if you live East Coast of the US). The mission was to give parents advice and an little more insight into the competitive process, how their child might be feeling and what to do and what not to do. In preparation I sat and pondered what were the major influences that we should be aware of and there was one factor that I could easily have left out but I just could not. Birth order and gender within the family!
More and more I am intrigued by this factor. This was reinforced this week when teaching a lesson to a girl who has an older sister and is one of four children in the family. Without meeting the girl I surprised myself by predicting some of the learning preferences and issues that she has. Dad explained that she seemed to lack the killer instinct at soccer and preferred to play as a defender rather than be the goal scorer, she was a socialiser and often throws in a rebellious comment or behavior. Pretty typical for a second child?
The second child is usually greatly influenced by the older sibling. Girls with older brothers tend to be more athletic and use their brother as a target, often wanting to be like them. Society does not suggest that they should be as good so there is nothing to lose! Second child girls with an older sister tend to dislike the inevitable comparisons, often prefer to play different sports and equally are more in tune with group emotions and play the role of peace keeper. Second children are often more creative as they find a variety of strategies to both fit in and stand out. Of course there are exceptions but as a starting point these are guidelines.
Brothers with older athletic sisters prefer not to take on the same sport, preferring to look in another direction. Second child boys with older brothers however are not concerned as much with the comparison and prefer instead to compete with their older siblings.
Back to my lesson the next day with the young sister. After a few simple questions about how she likes to play and a few subtle questions about we were on track with learning environment where my young player got to change the games, starting with collaborative activities, and as her confidence grew and she understood that she was safe to be herself with her new coach her competitive streak came through too.
Of course there are a myriad of family dynamics. You might be tempted to list Serena Williams as an exception until you realize that at birth Venue had eight half brothers and sisters.
More and more we are looking at developing a greater understanding of how to teach young players, and understanding the influence of the family is just one part. It may not be in most of the text books but understanding who a child is and how their environment has shaped them on and off the court is one of the real keys to be getting kids really motivated to play our great game.
We would really like your responses to this post, questions and experiences. Thanks!
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