Dr Jo Lukins has dedicated her career to understanding what makes athletes tick. As a PhD sports psychologist with over 25 years’ experience and knowledge in the sport and education domains, she is the first to point out the integral role a supportive family plays in the journey of a young athlete.
“We often hear people say that it takes a village to raise a child, and that is definitely the case within sporting communities,” says Dr Lukins.
“It’s important to recognise the role people play in supporting kids through their sporting journey, and it’s important for kids to recognise that as well.”
Dr Lukins has released her second book, In The Grandstands, which she describes as the ultimate companion for mums and dads in supporting their teenager’s sporting journey – regardless of their chosen sport, age or ability.
“After years of working with families in the sporting arena, I wrote In the Grandstands as a handbook to help parents navigate the tears and triumphs of sport whether their teen is a reluctant player or has dreams of sporting glory,” she said.
“A recent study found 70 percent of children won’t continue sport after the age of 13 and the main reason is ‘lack of fun’ – but it doesn’t have to be this way because parents play a crucial role in facilitating their child’s sporting experience.”
As more children aspire to elite athletic levels like the Olympics, Dr Lukins says her book will help teach parents how to manage expectations – touching on topics like helpful conversations, managing disappointment, coping with injury, and respect for all.
“It aims to guide parents in moments of self-doubt and helps them reflect, but it comes from a place of understanding and educating rather than judgement, especially since there is a lot of parent-blaming in sport nowadays,” she said.
“We need to understand that really well-meaning parents sometimes do unhelpful things and lose sight of the important things like having fun and connecting with their children.”
Across 12 chapters, Dr Lukins has drawn upon personal and professional experiences to provide an insight into what parents may face in both individual and team sport.
“It’ll provide a resource for parents to answer those tough questions like – How can I say no to my child playing six sports this year? My child wants to quit, so how do I keep them motivated? And, should I document my child’s journey on social media?” she explains.
“I too am a parent of kids who play sports, and I’ve made plenty of mistakes over the years, and there have been times when I questioned my choices and have wondered how best I can manage it all.”
While In The Grandstands is written from a sporting perspective, Dr Lukins says many of the topics and skills can be applied within the business space.
“While it wasn’t written as a business book, there are chapters about having fun, dealing with disappointment and having gratitude, things that often translate to business,” she continues.
“What I’ve found is that the business community often has an interest in sports psychology because there are many parallels that can be drawn between the two industries like performance, anxiety, achieving, and dealing with disappointment.”
Dr Lukins also notes how many of the key skills children learn through sport successfully translate to their career of choice, making parental support even more crucial in the journey of a young athlete.
“Often the skills it takes to succeed in sport – perseverance, sacrifice, team work, time management – are skills that children are then able to apply to their careers and working life,” she explains.
“On the surface, In The Grandstands is a book about sport but this could just as easily be picked up by a parent of a child who is pursuing the Arts.
“I’ve tried hard to encapsulate all these integral skills and create a space where it enables people to then implement them into their own lives, regardless of what they do.”
Dr Lukins experienced major success with the release of her first book The Elite in 2019, which has since been adopted in both business and education settings.
“I have worked with one of the larger banks who used it as a basis for their Group Management training, and now a local high school is using it as their Year 9 text book,” she says.
“While I write from the sports perspective, the ideas and skills really have a broader reach and can be translated into many settings, which enables others to appreciate it and implement it in their own lives.”
Dr Lukins says her ability to navigate the publishing process has certainly improved since the release of The Elite, however, she admits that it continues to be a learning experience.
“Learning how to navigate the sales and marketing of the book has been a steep learning curve, especially since with In the Grandstands, the demographic is slightly different to that of The Elite, which means we have really had to readapt our marketing to suit this shift in readership,” she explains.
Despite Dr Lukins currently consulting with the North Queensland Cowboys, the Adelaide Lightning, and the Women’s Queensland State of Origin team, she has already commenced planning for a third book. Amidst it all, she is also in the process of developing an online platform that will contain various digital programs designed to enable people to dive further into the topics discussed in The Elite and In The Grandstands.
“I’m in the process of developing some online programs on the back of Elite and In The Grandstands for those people who want to explore some of the topics further,’ she explains.
“By doing it online it is more scalable, which will ensure it reaches more people, and since finding a registered sports psychologist in North Queensland comes with its share of challenges, the online programs will give people the opportunity to have access to this information.
“It will provide a resource to share some of my own experiences, offer advice and suggestions for those who are looking to develop further in specific areas.
“Essentially, it’s about trying to creatively get the meaning and the message out into the broader community to ensure parents can continue to successfully support their child’s sporting journey.”
In The Grandstands is out now and available for purchase at Mary Who Bookshop or https://www.drjolukins.com/shop
By Georgie Desailly