Many parents fail to truly capture and understand their responsibilities (See Parent’s Expectations blog) within youth sports. As a result, many miss vital opportunities to help create a positive sporting environment and experiences for their child. Therefore, some parents will influence their child’s level of enjoyment and development by placing unrealistic expectations, and self-comparison, using winning as the only indication of success. We must consider that this might not be a true reflection of every youth sports parent, yet we can all still relate in some ways. Naturally, all parents need and strive towards wanting the best for their child in life and sport. However, each parent can express this desire in a number of different ways, there isn’t a one size fits all approach.
We as coaches, clubs and organizations must contemplate and question if the parents are given adequate opportunities and resources to increase their knowledge about how to be positive sporting youth parents? The literature states that continually educating parents will potentially effective a parent-child relationship, which fundamentally aid’s a child’s development and overall well-being. The role of the youth-parent is dramatically increasing and becoming influential due to the comparison with the elite game and the financial gain of ultimately reaching the elite professional level.
As mentioned within the “Objective of Youth Sport” it’s important to first and foremost emphasize that EVERY individual has the right to participate in sport. While many parents repeatedly encourage their children to participate, no child should be pressured or intimidated into playing. Evidence by (Smith & Smoll,2007; Visik, 2014 ) stated any young athletes that felt “entrapped” inform us of their lack of enjoyment, decreased motivation and were more likely to drop out of the sport.
The concerns I continue to hear/see/observe are parents “forcing” or “pressurising” their child into a sport that they themselves were once successful in. The “If I played, YOU play approach”. Then they suddenly become frustrated and alarmed once their child fails to live up to their expectations, ability, or level of interest in the sport they once had.
The extent how which parents define success is complex, as we all define or view success differently. According to the Oxford Dictionary success is defined as:
“The accomplishment of an aim or purpose.”
We should remember that these are young athletes slowly discovering the game and its complexities. Allow them the opportunity to discover the game. In addition, some parents tend to define self-worth from the success of their child’s accomplishments or failures within the sport. This for me is a “Golden Opportunity” to educate parents and provide an example of what was successful for everyone, what everyone accomplished within the game. Let’s not make the game problematic as we strive for our own success by playing the game through our child’s eyes, it’s their game, let them experience it.
Regardless if you’ve played the game at any level, it’s vitally important to differentiate between the past and the present. We must allow young athletes to discover the game at their own speed. If parents approach the game within youth sport with such “I played and therefore you play” approach and carry such personal pressure and burden on their child to succeed, players will pick up on this. Do you want to create such an environment for your child? What will be the ultimate consequence?
Coaches, you might think how can I attempt to change this?
- As coaches take the time to conduct a brief post-game discussion with all parents, regardless of wins or losses, to really reiterate how much fun the boys had, the courage and creativity they had to try new things etc. How is training transferred into the game? Also, stress how well (generalized comment) the parents conducted themselves on the sideline. We all enjoy receiving praise.
- The above can be done verbally or via email/text.
Remember – Educating the parents is a process, it will NOT happen overnight.
Tip: Don’t mention individual names, unless you’re going to mention everyone’s name.
Within the sport, every single young individual will experience the enjoyment of winning and the pain of losing, that’s how sports competition is designed. Don’t define a player or team’s ability by the outcome, or how you used to play the game. Parents should be supporting the player and most importantly the team. It’s about parents, placing self-worth, self-image, past playing experience/ego aside and embracing the sporting environment and providing support.
Let each player enjoy the game.
The Sporting Influencer