Time-poor parents and their influence on cricket participation

It is an accepted responsibility of being a parent that we keep our children healthy. Whilst this is done through nutrition and keeping them safe, there’s also a role for exercise, which is where encouraging them to participate in sport comes in.

In addition to keeping a child fit and active, it also creates a situation where a child learns to be part of a team, accepts rules and decisions and make friends outside his or her usual group.

However, it seems that the lifestyles of parents are now heavily influencing the sporting pursuits our younger generation are making. Changes in society are now permeating the sporting activities of children, and whilst occasionally understandable, are not always for the best.

In the mid-1980s, the rise of the yuppie and the so-called greed period saw a move away from team based activities and more towards those based around self. As such, we saw individual based sports and pastimes such as a return to body building and the rise of triathlons, aerobics and other solo orientated sports at the cost of team based sports where glory and success were shared.

Whilst that Greed generation (and its embarrassing clothing trends) has waned, many of these activities remained and during that period of time, interest in being part of a team definitely dropped off.

Now, it seems that the societal push towards parents being (or considering themselves to be) time poor is also contributing to a change in the sporting landscape.

Parents who cannot afford or do not feel they wish to commit, the time for longer form sports, coupled with a desire to protect their offspring from danger, is seeing a move away from some traditional sports.

With the safety issue, the desire to protect a child is understandably primal and completely understandable. Parents can either protect their children reactively (by stepping in the way of danger when it occurs) or proactively, by removing the risk or likelihood of injury or hurt in advance. This is why there’s a significant move towards less contact sports such as soccer in preference to football, or the rise in junior AFL clubs wearing protective headgear.

But it is the decisions around time commitments that are proving to be fascinating.

There has been a significant increase amongst the schools and young athletes I see and interact with towards basketball in favour of cricket. And the reason isn’t NBA marketing, the decline of Australian’s cricket fortunes or any other reason associated with the actual sport.

It’s the time factor. Parents openly admit that it is easier for them or better for their weekend lives to be in and out of a basketball match within the hour, rather than staying at a cricket match that takes much longer.

Add to that the prospects of a cricket match starting very early on a Saturday or Sunday morning, or taking up a Friday night, and the child possibly participating in it for a very brief period of time, and the decision towards a game over in under an hour, played inside, where the child may see more game time, and the move towards sports like this seem justified.

However, it is sad when the decisions of a parent for reasons such as being busy are robbing kids of the opportunity to participate in some sports.

My son’s year 7 class this year includes 150 12 and 13 year old boys in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. This term, nearly 80 kids signed up for school basketball, with only 34 playing cricket. Whilst the school has a strong basketball program, many boys needed to be guided away from basketball as there were limited spots available across the 5 teams, and so people moved to other short term indoor sports like volleyball.

Recently the B cricket side had its game cancelled as the opposing school, of a similar size, is only fielding one cricket side this term. The school is getting very good at its player rotation policy as a result!

In talking to parents about this decline in cricket participation, there is a common thread of what is good for the parent being a decision making factor. Parents are saying that the impact on their weekends is a significant factor.

This is not a criticism of basketball as young people will continue to benefit in relation to heath, teamwork and discipline by playing this great world sport. And we shouldn’t be worried about a decline in cricket popularity in the future, as (sadly) increasing numbers in junior basketball and netball participation do not correlate to senior level crowds or ratings.

As each year goes by, parents are taking a greater and closer interest in what sports their children play. However, the choices made by parents to encourage or guide their children’s decisions are varied in what goes into them, and in some cases, unashamedly, seem to be more about the parent than the child.


About Sean Curtain

"He was born with a gift of laughter, and a sense that the world was mad". First line of 'Scaramouche' by Sabatini, always liked that.


  1. In my local association, U12s cricket has now been moved to Friday nights mainly because too many have basketball on Saturday morning. It’s 100% because of the lazy parents. When i played junior cricket in the late 90s we had 6 U12 teams, now we have 2.

    They are looking at implementing new rules for the U10s, including 8 per side, runs given to the batsmen for wides and various other rules to ensure kids are kept involved as much as possible.

    All good moves, but you wonder where kids are going to learn to build an innings and concentrate for long periods of time.

    What is more concerning is that in the junior rep carnival now – of the 6 games, 2 are 20/20 games. What good can come of that?

  2. Sean, I have been involved in junior cricket admin for about 7 years and I have seen the process you talk about first hand.

    In the north west of Melbourne we had a spike in cricket numbers in the 2006-07 period that runs counter to the general trend. The ashes success was seen to be a contributing factor. I think hat the poor performance of Melbourne based afl teams in the period also contributed because it allowed cricket a clear pre season. However the numbers now are appallingly low. And administrators are scratching their heads. Some of them see t20 as a panacea.

  3. Well written Sean. The time factor is a huge issue facing junior and club cricket. I coach the under 13’s at my club and while parents who play or used to play for the club are keen to get involved, the parents who aren’t/weren’t cricketers are happy to just drop their kids off for a few hours of babysitting while they go off and enjoy their Friday night elsewhere. It’s getting harder to keep the kids in the sport after they finish junior cricket, the lure of spending 6-7 hours at the beach, the races, pub etc. seems to be a much more appealing way to spend a Saturday. Cricket authorities at all levels are pushing for more Twenty20 to be played, but it still takes nearly 3 hours. And at junior levels your best batsmen are also likely to be your best bowlers, thus limiting overs for lesser players to bat and bowl. There are no easy solutions.

  4. Andrew Fithall says

    My story can only be anecdotal, but the decision both my sons made independently to give away local cricket had nothing to do with the time factor for themselves or their parents. It was simply the bad experience of playing cricket when neither was assessed as being one of the better players in their respective teams. Consistently broken promises from coaches that they will be given more opportunities to bowl and to bat up the order meant that too much time was spent looking on from the sidelines or fielding where it didn’t matter. Neither son was playing in the “number 1” team for their age group.

    As a junior basketball coach at domestic level, I would endeavour to allocate court time equally regardless of ability. Exceptions were made in finals – but this was communicated to players and parents.

    I had neither the skills nor knowledge to put myself forward to help out with the cricket coaching, so didn’t feel I could be too vocal in my objections – and my sons didn’t want me to anyway. But I am pretty sure I wasn’t alone in my dissatisfaction with what was happening on the field. The club in question this season has about one quarter of the number of teams it fielded just a couple of years ago. Kids don’t want to play if they don’t actually get to play.


  5. Andrew

    Fair point, I hadn’t meant to imply all decisions made were selfish. In the end the kids need to feel wanted and valued and be happy.

    There’s also a big time commitment in BB, with mates of mine travelling to Frankston and Geelong on Friday evenings for matches their kids are in and some balancing practice and football matches at U13 level on Sunday mornings.

    But, I was struck by the parents who openly said that they guided their kids towards BB due to the time factor


  6. Excellent article, Sean.
    I coach the U/17s at my cricket club, and am involved in the junior program. We are fortunate to have a strong Milo program which feeds into our juniors, but as someone who is involved at grass-roots level, I can honestly say that cricket is really struggling to attract kids.
    The number of clubs in the west and north-west (as Ian S mentioned above) which are struggling to field teams is staggering. And, no, T20 is not a cure-all.
    The drop-off really takes effect after u/13, when the teenage years kick in, and boys find that there are plenty of other attractions which appeal more than standing at fine-leg. Private schools who insist that their students play some form of weekend sport also have a detrimental effect on local clubs.
    As for basketball…my youngest son plays on Saturday nights. Let me tell you, that really has hairs on it!

  7. Smokie – I think you might have nailed part of the problem; the schools which play week-end sport. I don’t agree with it. School sport should be in school time. I think anyone over 40 would recall their junior sporting days as school sport mid-week, club sport on the week-end. It worked well.

    But as a parent with three kids at three different schools (yes that’s our decision), doing vastly different things, its not a matter of us not wanting to get our kids to sporting activities, its simply a matter of not always being able to. We’ve had to say “no” to a few of their requests.

  8. Nice work, Sean.

    You’re right, Dips. ACC (Associated Catholic Colleges) sport was on Wednesday arvos when I was at school. On Saturdays I played for the local side.

    When I played under 14s cricket, Dad used to drop me off on Saturday mornings but I made my own way home after the game and my own way to and from training after school during the week. (This involved trains – it wasn’t just up the street.) I think a lot of parents these days are reluctant for kids that age to have such independence.

  9. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Well written Sean and good posts as I have pointed out I am a very frustrated coach at present desperately trying to fill sides at senior level and also involved in juniors more than aware of the problems of which there is no easy solution

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