885Sports events are a great way to encourage your kids to exercise. Here’s how to help them prepare and join in on the fun as well.

Whether your kids are aiming for a PB, want to try a new sport or are looking to get fitter, training for a sports event is a great way to keep them active. Here are five ways you can help them make the most of the experience.

1. Goals can be great

Setting goals can give your child’s exercise program some structure, but it’s important that the goal is not too rigid or ambitious. “Start with a conversation about how eating healthy foods and exercising helps make our bodies stronger so we can play well,” says Ana, child psychologist and author of Women Secret.

“Then you can talk about the goal your child has in mind, without putting pressure on them. Make sure the goal is age and ability-appropriate.” And remember, simply participating in a sporting event could be a great goal to set. “Some kids are naturally more reserved and need a little more encouragement.”

2. Sound them out for strategies 

Once your child has decided they would like to participate in a sporting event, try some collaborative goal-setting. “Ask them, ‘What would you like to do?’ and ‘What would you like to get out of this?’” Then help them come up with strategies to work towards the goal.

3. Winning isn’t everything

If your child tells you their goal is to win, Robyn Richardson, Life Education Australia‘s national manager of program development, suggests steering them towards celebrating simply participating – after all, a win is never guaranteed.

4. Cross-training counts

Unlike the gruelling training regimens adults can face when preparing for a marathon or triathlon, most kids can prepare for a fitness event by cross-training with their favourite activities. “It doesn’t have to be formal exercise,” Richardson explains. “It can be swimming in your backyard pool, riding a skateboard or hitting the cricket ball.”

5. Fitness should be fun

It’s crucial that the training process is an enjoyable experience, or they could be put off. So if your child is practicing their running, why not make it into a game involving their siblings, or if they need to practice swimming, a fun family day at the pool will help build up their swim fitness. A family day out exploring somewhere you’ve never been before by bike could be a great way to clock up more cycling time.

It’s crucial that the training process is an enjoyable experience.

Richardson says that ultimately parents need to know they are the role models and “how you compete is how your kids will compete too”. “They will learn more from how you approach fitness than what you tell them to do.”