One of Philip Morgan’s fondest memories as a father is helping his young daughters lace up their football boots before a game, placing a kiss on each boot for good luck.
These moments, smiles and laughter helped Morgan build an even stronger connection with his children, one of the most important benefits he gained thanks to his children playing football.
“Our research has shown that children and parents sharing sporting experiences together has a major impact on families,” Morgan said.
“Positive experiences in sport can improve both parent and child physical and mental health but also strengthens relationships. A positive and supportive parent can impact on enjoyment in sport of their children.
“This can be the spark that lights the fire of a lifelong participation in sport and this is where you can see real and profound benefits later.”
Professor Morgan is Deputy Director of the Priority Research Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition at the University of Newcastle. His research focuses on the design, evaluation and translation of targeted interventions to promote physical activity and nutrition in men, fathers and children in school, community and workplace settings.
As a father of three daughters and coach of multiple junior girls football, basketball, cricket and touch football teams, Professor Morgan is especially aware of the important role parents, in particular fathers, play in their children’s lives. He is a strong male advocate for gender equity and enhancing the father-daughter bond and wellbeing through physical activity and sport.
Why football for your kids?
Morgan grew up playing football, starting as a four-year-old and playing for more than a decade. He would eventually coach his daughters at Cooks Hill United, who were then selected in NNSWF SAP programs. His 14-year-old and 11-year-old are to play NPL Women’s NNSW and JDL football with Broadmeadow Magic next season.
“As a former footballer I encouraged [my daughters] to get involved in football as it is a fun, active team sport, which had provided a lot of benefits to me. A few years back there weren’t many options for girls and it was so good that they introduced girls only football, which meant my daughters could form a team with friends to play,” Morgan said.
“There are so many benefits to children playing team sports. They can learn about the importance of teamwork, working towards common goals and communication but a large number of studies have shown how impactful it is on children’s mental health. And this is much stronger than for individual sports.
“I also believe football is one of the best sports children can play. Clearly children enjoy playing football which is the greatest advertisement for the sport but it is also a sport where there is a high level of movement and opportunities to develop aerobic fitness. Players get lots of touches and opportunities to work as a team. Children can develop game sense and tactical play and there are a full suite of physical skills they can develop. There are so many skill mastery components for both teams and individuals to work on and improve.
“Football is also the number one sport for ensuring modifications of rules, field size and ball match the developmental age of the children. This means more action, mastery and fun for all, spectators included! Most other sports ask kids to progress too quickly to the adult version. In football, you’ve got MiniRoos football which is 4 v 4, the ball is in play a lot, no corners or throw ins, lots of touches and involvement and that linear progression through different stages to small-sided games and eventually full field 11 v 11. Football is also a game you can play almost anywhere. All you need is a ball.”
Why be a football parent?
As well as there being countless benefits for children to play football, Morgan said from his experience there were also numerous benefits for parents.
All parents want to see their children happy and having fun with others, particularly enjoying a pursuit that is good for them. This is what Morgan believes football delivers.
“The majority of my time at junior sports has been as a coach but I also really enjoy not coaching and you get to just watch and enjoy the game with the other parents. When you get together with other parents, you have already bonded as you’ve all got something in common because you’ve all got a child out on that pitch,” Morgan said.
“Conversations are occurring, the sharing of ideas or challenges and most importantly, that sense of community and being part of something positive with other families. Sport offers such a rich opportunity to foster this social connection.
“There are so many special things about the game of football and watching as parents you share in the joy of watching mastery of new skills both as an individual and as a team and dealing with adversity. Witnessing that as a parent is pretty special. But also the social connection for parents and adults is so important.
“Social connection is one of the most important factors for an individual’s mental health. This can be so good for many parents who may have not had this opportunity without their children playing sport. That shared experience of watching your child and other children achieve something together in an active sport, outdoors, using teamwork, gaining that sense of achievement you see the benefits firsthand.
“Importantly, one of the overarching messages of team sports is that it’s really important for children but also many drop out if their experience isn’t positive. The support from parents is a key factor in predicting long term enjoyment. That’s why parents play such a crucial role in helping to create a supportive environment.”
Registration information for Parents
Want to sign up your child for football in 2022? Register HERE
Having trouble? Parents can contact the PlayFootball team directly if they are having issues with registering by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 02 8880 7983.
The support team will be available from 9am until 9pm throughout January and February, with the potential for the extended service to continue into March.
While registrations for some community clubs will open from the first week of January, NNSWF’s annual official date for open registrations is 1 February. Contact your club for more information.