Recently I was advised to watch an “Intervention” documentary aired on A&E (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4RMRfpkxxE) about an excessive example of a sporting influencer placing an overbearing expectations and pressure on his son (Eddie Jr). Eddie’s father (Eddie Sr) was a very talented baseball player himself and received a college scholarship, however due to family reasons had to refuse such offer. Eddie Jr inherited a lot of his father’s baseball qualities and immediately became a very talented left-handed baseball player. Throughout his younger years, all Eddie Jr. tasted was victory and success, however it came at the cost of his father demands of “Consistent Excellent Performances” in every game, anything less wouldn’t be good enough. Eddie Jr quoted that he “continually felt the pressure of his father’s demands” whilst playing baseball, nonetheless the thriving emotion experienced with success overshadowed everything. Eddie Jr’s success in baseball eventually lead him to acquire a college scholarship from Duke University. During his college time, he quoted that “He didn’t have his father there to tell him what to do”, which meant Eddie Jr had become dependent on someone constantly dictating what he does. Without his dictator (Eddie Snr )with him in College, Eddie Jr started to become dependent on his talent which lead to inconsistent performances, this may be an effect on not having the voice-of-confidence from his father on the sideline, this contrast in performances lead to Eddie Jr being dropped from his college team. As a result, Eddie Jr began consuming alcohol and experimenting with drugs. When his father found out of such incidents, the support for Eddie Jr athletically and personally quickly diminished. Whilst the documentary came to an end, Eddie Jr admitted that he “never knew how to deal with losing”.
It’s clear to assume that Eddie Sr wanted to achieve successes through his son, as he always wondered what would’ve happened if he went to play college baseball when given the opportunity. Parents: don’t re-live your past accomplishments or failures through your son and/or daughter. Let them prosper into their own type of athlete. Are we products of our environment or products of other people’s expectations?
Parents need to be realistic in the essence of, only the minority of sporting participants make it to elite sport. The latest figures suggest that less than 1.4 all high school athletes will ever become professional athletes (NCAA, Feb, 2015). As a results, isn’t a good idea, to allow a child to enjoy participating in sport? Learning skills that are applicable to other sporting environments and life in general.
Let’s consider the role of a sporting influencer:
“The primary role of the parent in youth sports is to provide emotional, financial and provisionary support for their children” (Rowley, 1986).
Parents, as sporting influencers, have a “unique potential to influence this environment” (Randall & MaKenzie, 1987, p. 201) and are not often accurately aware of their behaviors (Kanters, Bocarro, & Casper, 2008). It’s important to recognise that the negative impact of verbal aggression is not only felt by the target, but there is evidence to suggest that regular exposure to background anger is equally distressing for all children witnessing these types of behaviors (Cummings, 1987; Omli & La Voi, 2009).
There are multitude of reasons of why sporting influencers behave negatively on the sideline, such as overly-emphasize on winning, winning is the only indication of improvement and enjoyment, playing through-the-eyes of their son/daughter, comparing their son/daughter’s ability against other or elite players, pressure of obtaining a college scholarship and uneducated soccer-parents.
Majority of parents within youth soccer place a greater emphasis on the results of each game and season, in terms of “Winning”. Parents tend to use “Winning” as an indication of a player’s development and enjoyment in the sport, which is far from the truth. I understand from being an active sportsperson and coach that winning and losing are a key feature of sport that go hand-in-hand and something that WE all as players and parents thrive to feel. This leads onto the debate of “winning v development”, such strategies go hand-in-hand. Its something every athlete should experience in terms of winning or losing. The result of any game doesn’t define one’s ability. However, many psychologists have stated that those parents who emphasize and demand “Consistent Excellent Performances” and “Winning”, have a higher percentage of children that suffer from a great deal of low self-esteem, anxiety and potentially drop out of sport entirely (Children in Sport).
Fabian De Marco, recent YouTube video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ot7jZt7BjM) creates an analogy in between acknowledging a player’s development and the stock market. He continues to highlight that a player “Stock Market Share” may drop over a short period of time, however long term the same “Stock Market Share” will increase. In terms of development any players “Stock market Share” will decrease and increase over a period of time, and will re-enter the continual cycle.
Once you have that image of elite sport, some parents may began comparing youth and elite sport. The outcome of this highly regulated, competitive, structured approach is the development of a win-at-all-costs mentality for parents and coaches, which eventually filters down and is embodied in the behaviors of the children themselves (Schuette, 2001). It’s important reiterate, that 1) these elite athletes have been through the process of development and made many errors and will continue to do so as they attempt to reach individual excellence. 2) Elite players get paid a monumental amount of money to produce positive results at any cost, as the soccer world is in the business of making money.
I continue to hear parents refer to their past accomplishment or training methods implemented whilst they were younger. Always hear the famous quote “When I played…..” Certain methodologies worked back then,we MUST recognize that the coaching and teaching environments have evolved into the modern era, that is individualised to each player and team. As previously mentioned in the blog, allow your son/daughter to prosper from the environment, not prosper from a parent’s overbearing expectations or frustrations . If parents continue to set of unrealistic performance goals it could have detrimental effects on a player’s motivation and enjoyment (Power and Woolger 1994).
Take a second to reflect, have you placed any unnecessary pressure on your child or team? Or did it ever happen to you whilst participating in sport, how did it make you feel? As parents can we become more open-minded to change our beliefs whilst observing youth soccer? Next time, you’re standing on the side of a soccer field or any sporting complex, think of this ”LET THEM PLAY”.
Below, are the seven top reasons that children dropout of sport:
- They are sick & tired of being criticized
- Tired of being yelled at
- Afraid to make mistakes – afraid of being judged
- Lack of playing time
- Too much focus on winning
- Getting cut from a team – at the age of 6, 7 & 8
- The ride home with their parents!!!!
Date of publish: March, 2015
However, there would appear to be consensus that if parents were provided with information that would enable them to better understand the implications of their own behaviour, they would be more likely to moderate their actions to help create a more positive sporting environment for their children (Gould et al., 2006; Kidman et al., 1999; Stein et al., 1999).
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Cummings, E. M. (1987). Coping with background anger in early childhood. Child Development, 58, 976-984.
Engh, F. (1999). Why Johnny hates sports? Why organized youth sports are failing our children and what we can do about
Gould, D., Lauer, L., Rolo, C., Jannes, C., & Pennisi, N. (2006). Understanding the role parents play in tennis success: a national survey of junior tennis coaches. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 40, 632-636.
Kidman, L., McKenzie, A., & McKenzie, B. (1999). The nature and target of parents’ comments during youth sport competitions. Journal of Sport Behavior, 22, 54- 68
Michael Langlois, 2015 (Twitter Feed). Twitter – @ProspectComm –
Omli, J., & La Voi, N. (2009). Background anger in youth sport: A perfect storm? Journal of Sport Behavior, 32, 242-260.
Power, T. G., & Woolger, C. (1994). Parenting practices and age-group swimming: A correlational study. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 65, 59-66.
Randall, L.E., & McKenzie, T.L. (1987). Spectator verbal behavior in organizes youth soccer: A descriptive analysis. Journal of Sport Behavior, 11, 200-211.
Rowley, S. (1986). The role of the parent in youth sports. In G.R. Gleeson (Ed.), The Growing Child in Competitive Sport, (pp. 92-99). London: Hoddon and Stoughton.
Schuette, J. R. (2001). Adolescent sports violence – when prosecutors play referee. Making criminals out of child athletes, but are they the real culprits? Northern Illinois University Law Review, 21, 515-540
Stein, G. L., Raedeke, T. D., & Glenn, S. 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, 591-601.
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.
http://prospectcommunications.com/about/blog/ – Michael Langlois
Intervention Ep – Eddie – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4RMRfpkxxE