Helpful or Harmful: Becoming a Sporting Influencer

The Sporting Influencer blogs have highlighted the “The Problem”, “The Parent’s Expectations” and most recently “The Effect” concerning misguided or uneducated parents on the sideline and it’s effect on those participating. The previous blogs have opened our minds to the pivotal role the sporting influencers play in the perceived success and participation in youth sport. The current blog will be centered around “Becoming a Positive Sporting Influencer” and the impact it can have on participation within a meaningful and fun environment.

Research in youth sport parental involvement have echoed the need and importance for further parental education, for several reasons including 1) Highlighting the current problem regarding negative parental involvement, and 2) Stressing the importance of changing the approach towards youth sport by adopting a positive mentality and its short and long term effect on participation. Educating the sporting influencer can be implemented in many diverse methods i.e. Parent education evenings and articles sent to parents via email. Research clearly advocates that parents can positively influence children’s enjoyment of sports and self-concept development (Brustad, 1996). However, placing unrealistic expectations as highlighted in the ‘Parents Expectations” blog can produce negative outcomes from parents and players.

The way parents interpret a child’s involvement in sport significantly affects the child’s experience. Several researchers have recited a relationship between the lower levels of parental pressure and greater enjoyment within sport. These statements leads us onto the main purpose of the blog.

We must acknowledge and clarify that soccer is a very entertaining game to observe, and at times we’ve all been guilty of being overly excited on the sidelines. This is a very natural emotion to experience and express, yet we MUST balance our emotions and express positive ideals towards the sport, besides solely focusing on goals scored. Does this unconsciously tell our players/team we will only applaud when you score? A player will only perceive success by scoring a goal? This will lead us onto what should a positive sporting influencer act and sound like on the sideline.

I’ve discussed the matter of becoming a positive sporting influencer with many diverse parents, and there are two consistent questions: 1) “What do I say then?”.  An excellent and open-minded question to ask. On the other hand, some parents will refuse to change their approach towards youth sport stating: 2) “This is how it was when I played 20 years ago”.  We cannot disagree with such a statement, as that might be the case 20 years ago. However, its important to recognize as coaches that this is a great opportunity to highlight that coaching and additionally the youth sport environment has dramatically evolved, and sideline behavior has come to the forefront of research as a major influencer towards players quitting sports.

Below are some POSITIVE approaches that sporting influencers could implement in order to become positive on the sideline:

  • Be supportive before the competition even starts. Tell your youth athlete you are proud of him/her, regardless of how well he/she plays.
  • Remind them that it’s normal to be nervous and to have fun even when playing hard.
  • Let the coaches coach; avoid instructing your child or other players from the sidelines.
  • Cheer for good plays and great efforts by both
  • When the game ends, set a good example for your child by thanking the officials, coaches, teammates and opposing teams for their efforts. All Copyright reserved for – US Youth Soccer
  • The need to clarify and highlight the effect of being or becoming a positive sporting influencer has on participation is pivotal. We must understand to what effect such approach or changed approach will do to benefit or hinder our child’s perceived success and long-term participation rate.
  • Greater levels of sport participation.
  • Greater opportunity for life-long participation.
  • Positive attitude toward sport and exhibit higher perception levels of competence.
  • Increased amount of Enjoyment
  • Improved level of self-esteem
  • Improved level of Motivation

 All these skills listed are transferable to other areas of life and sporting activities.

I feel ‘Coach Education’, fails to focus upon the importance of sustaining a positive relationship with parents. In turn, having a greater effect on those child participating within a comfortable and positive environment. For an uneducated or inexperienced coach, it’s a component that is neglected due to various reasons, or for those coaches whom maintain they have enough to contend with. However, coaches are within a position with a greater amount of capacity also power to influence and change ideals and behaviors of parents. The incentive for both parents and coaches is the create a positive environment for the player, potentially leading to improvement and life-long participation.  It’s imperative that coaches highlight and set players and parents expectations before the session begins, making everyone aware of such expectancies.

Beneficial Heading: 100 Point Exercise

Here is an exercise that any coach and/or parent can utilize: 100 Point Strategy. I’ve personally used this exercise with my own team just recently, the exercise allows the parent(s) and player(s) to prioritize what’s important to them in sports individually then discuss each and everyone’s priority list. This will allow parents to clearly identify and appreciate what important to the child whilst participating in youth sports.

I’d like to personally state the importance of creating a positive environment for participation in youth sport. If you could recall a past event that you negatively experienced, did you return to that environment? If, so how did you feel about it? I imagine majority of us never returned. It’s the exact situation we currently have with our child and/or team. If we emphasize creating a fun environment or increasing one’s enjoyment towards sport, you’ll quickly identify players returning to practices with smiles and wanting to participate with friends. This will potentially increase life-long participation.

Thank you

The Sporting Influencer

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100 Point Exercise:

PowerPoint Presentation from US Youth Soccer –

Brustad, R, J. (1988). Affective outcomes in competitive youth sport: The influence of interpersonal and socialization factors. Journal of sport & exercise psychology, 10, 307-321

Brustad, R, J. (1996). Parental and peer influences on children’s psychological development through sport. In F.L. Smoll & R.E.

Smith (Eds), Children and youth sport: A biopsychology perspective (pp.112-124). Dubuque, IA; Brown & Benchma

Babkes, M,L., & Weiss, M. R. (1999). Parental influence on cognitive and affective responses in children’s competitive soccer participation. Pediatric Exercise Science, 11, 44-62.

Weiss, M. R (Ed). (2004). Developmental sport and exercise psychology: A lifespan perspective. Novgentown. WV: Fitness Information Technology, Inc.

McCarthy, P., Jones, M.,  and Clark-Carter, D. (2008).  “Understanding enjoyment in youth sport: a developmental perspective” Psychology of Sport and Exercise 9.2: 142-156.

Jones, M. I., & Lavalle, D. (2009). Exploring perceived life skills development and participation in sport. Qualitative Research in Sport and Exercise, 1, 36-50

Fredericks, J. A., & Eccles, J. S. (2005). Family socialization, gender, and sport motivation and involvement. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 27, 3-31.

Stein, G. L.,fe Raedeke, T. D. (1999). Children’s perceptions of parent sport involvement: It’s not how much, but to what degree that’s important. Journal of Sport Behavior, 22, 1-8.

Stuart, M., E (2004). Moral issues in sport: the child’s perspective. Res Q Exerc Sport: 74 (4); 545-553

Kanters, M.A, Bocarro, J. & Casper, J.(2008). Supported or pressured? An examination of agreement among parent’s and children on parent’s role in youth sport. Journal of Sport Behavior, 31, 64-80

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