Monday, August 13, 2012

                  SPORT AND LOOKED AFTER CHILDREN



We Foster Carers are asked to be many things. Parents, tearoom psychologists, detectives, taxi drivers, teachers, chefs, film censors, fashion experts, lawyers.

For most of us, being female, the only experience of sport we can bring to fostering is our occasional use as punchbags.

The Olympic euphoria has resulted in David Cameron and Boris saying we need more sport in schools, and that seems to be a good idea, but for me it was a bit worrying to hear the Prime Minister add that we needed an end to the culture of "everyone's a winner". You hear this mantra trotted out ad nauseum every time anyone over on the right starts thinking about children and sport.

These are people who've never actually tried to get a child interested in sport from scratch, and who have never seen the Fast Show and laughed at "Competitive Dad".

I've found that looked after children often have low esteem, and poor hand-eye skills. They couldn't catch the proverbial cold. Not only that, they often can't really run and have no balance. They are weak and badly nourished, often have poor eyesight. Yet they expect to be able to play football like Wayne Rooney right from the get go. 

And it's our job to get them going.

So when they announce they want a game of football, or ping-pong or whatever, we have to bring a set of sports psychology skills into play that would challenge Sir Alex Ferguson. 

WHAT I DO FIRST

Praise every single thing they do.

Resist the urge to coach or advise.

Turn a blind eye to blatant cheating.

Encourage the belief they might be world class.

Let them win and support the belief that I've played my best game.

WHAT I DO NEXT

Up my game a bit. When they start to improve match their success with my best game.

Question the cheating.

Start talking about joining a training group or a team.

Introduce the idea that better diet and sleeping will enhance their chance of beating me and others.

Let them win.

HOW I GET IT WRONG

They think I'm an incompetent buffoon, and I risk losing respect. But so what? The Foster Carer is an emotional rock, not Jose Maurinho or Seb Coe.

HERE'S THE THING

Every child I've worked with knows exactly what the above programme is all about. Looked after children are Gold Medalists at perceiving what's going on. They get the deal. They know you are helping and showing love by losing and dealing with defeat with dignity and self deprecation.

MO FARER

Is a foster child. So is Mario Ballotelli, who I'm told is the most dynamic footballer in the world. Somewhere, people who do what we do, got something right, and I doubt it started out by those foster carers demonstrating to Mo and Mario they were losers in life and sport too. 

Foster Carers are silver. The child is gold.

THE SECRET FOSTER CARER










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