Many sporting influencers (Defined: Parents) fail to truly capture their responsibilities (See Parent’s Expectations blog) within the youth sporting environment, as a result many miss vital opportunities to aid their child’s development through their chosen sport. As a result, many parents will hamper their child’s level of enjoyment and development within the sport (Cumming & Ewing,1999) by placing unrealistic expectations, self-comparison, pressure to win etc. We must consider that this might not be a true reflection and/or accountability of the parent(s), we must contemplate if the parents are given the opportunity and resources to increase their knowledge surrounding parental involvement. Literature states that continually educating parents will potentially positively effective parent-child relationships, which are fundamental to a child’s development and overall well-being (Horn & Horn, 2007; Pomerantz & Thompson,2007). According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, (2000) parental involvement within youth sport is dramatically increasing, due to the lure of acquiring college scholarships and the financial gain the professional game provides. 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 sporting influencers repeatedly encourage their child to participate, no child should be pressured, intimidated, or bribed into playing (Smith & Smoll, 2007). Evidence by (Smith & Smoll,2007; Universities Study Committee, Michigan, 1978: Vallerand, Deci, & Ryan, 1987;Visik, 2014 ), continue to support the latter by stating any young athletes that feel “entrapped” inform us of their lack of enjoyment, decreased motivation and are more likely to drop out sport. Considering the statement by (Clark, 2008; Kremer-Sadlik & Kim,2007) parents have been highlighted as one of the major influences on a child’s level of enjoyment and participation within a particular sport, therefore it’s vital that we as a sporting society embrace this influential element of parental involvement and continue to educate the sporting influencer. In order to keep more youngsters participating in a sport that leads to towards healthy lifestyles (World Health Organization,2006) and life-long participation (Kirk,2005).
The problem I continue to witness are parents “forcing” or “pressurizing” their child into a sport that they themselves were successful. If I played, YOU play. Then suddenly become frustrated and alarmed once their child fails to live up to the expectancy, ability, and interest in the sport. Such approach by parents has been labeled by (Smith & Smoll, 2007; Smoll, 1989) as “reversed- dependency phenomenon”.
Coaches should appreciate that every parent wants the best for their child, however in most case the latter becomes the problem. Unfortunately, the extent of how parents define success is from one extreme to the other. Parent(s) become problematic when they continuously become an extension of their child while they participate in youth sport. Especially whom were successful athletes as they place greater expectations on their child (Cumming & Ewing,1999). We should remember that these are young athletes slowly discovering the game and its complexities. Allow them the opportunity to discover the game. In some cases, the reverse identification can become excessive. This type of approach occurs when a parent(s) tend to define self-worth from the success of their child’s accomplishment or failures within the sport. Uneducated or ill-informed parents tend to define success in terms of “Wins” or “Losses”, some even to the extent of miss tackles, miss placed passes, missing a goal scoring opportunity etc. They begin to view the game through their own eyes (Experienced Adults) not allowing the young athletes to discover the game in his or her own speed in terms of development. In a similar scenario, some parents secretly only want their own son or daughter to be or become successful. For example, parents will enjoy boasting about how many goal little john scored today? Highlighting individual successes only to display a sense of self-worth to others, in contrast losing a game would potentially damage the self-image of the parent. Sounds funny, but it happens. If parents approach the game within youth sport within such manner and carry such personal pressure and burden for their child to succeed, regardless if parents vocally share their frustrations, players will pick up on the negative body language.Do you want to great such environment for your child?
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. Also, stress how well (generalized comment) the parents conducted themselves on the sideline. We all enjoy receiving praise.
Remember – Educating the parents is a process, it will NOT happen over night.
Tip: Don’t mention individual names, unless you’re going to mention everyone name.
Questions that parents may ask:
Should parents demonstrate an element of acceptance in their child’s disappointments?
Educational Example: Imagine a young child sitting in a classroom full of students trying to understand and complete mathematical equations. The student sits alone, full of concentration, rationally thinking about how to approach the following equations. They
attempt to cancel out the external noise from the classroom to fully focus on the mathematical problem. They attempt to complete the equation, yet unsuccessful. At that time, there are no parents to shout, scream or even provide the answer. Youngsters will attempt various approaches in order to find and discover the correct answer. The process and discovery are much more important than the outcome.
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’s and/or team’s ability by the outcome, it can be deceptive. Parents should be supporting the player and most importantly the team regardless of the outcome. It’s about parents, placing self-worth, self-image and ego aside if their child fails to win, embrace such circumstances and provide support. Parents remember, don’t analyze or critique individual performances, just listen and offer support.
Should parents be showing “Self-Control” on the sideline?
I’ve always reminded parents about how they conduct and behave on the sideline, as it could have a detrimental influence on the players. As adults and more importantly parents, we are “Role Models”, it’s important that we demonstrate the right qualities within such a public environment. Several studies have confirmed that parent involvement in the form of emotional support and role modeling is positively related to both enjoyment and participation levels in sport (Babkes & Weiss, 1999; Brustad, 1993; 1996; Fredericks & Eccles, 2005; Green & Chalip, 1997). How can coaches begin to educate players on respect, teamwork, accountability and sportsmanship, if parents fail to control themselves within a youth sporting environment?
Why isn’t my child as good as I was at that age?
If you ask or consider such statement, I have one response = STOP. Regardless if you (Parents) were a high school all-star athlete, it doesn’t mean your child is a product of your success. Each child will discover the game in their own time. Many parents compare themselves at the highest level to their child beginning the sport, naturally there are going to be differences. Don’t compare, allow the child to be their own player, and enjoy the sport.
Coaches kindly and purposefully share with parents that placing excessive pressure on children can decrease the potential for enjoyment and personal growth (Smith & Smoll, 2007). In addition, highlight the compelling evidence suggesting that parents not only impact children’s initial sports involvement they also predict future sport activity choices (Fredericks & Eccles, 2005). A key to reducing parent- produced stress is to impress on parents that youth sports programs are for young athletes and that children and youth are not adults. Parents must acknowledge the right of each child to develop the athletic potential in an atmosphere that emphasizes participation, personal growth, and fun (Smith & Smoll, 2007).
Do you compare yourself to your child?
Yes? – Stop NOW
No? – Well Done.
I sincerely hope after reading this blog, your views towards self-comparison between you (The Parent) and the player will change. Let each player enjoy the game.
The Sporting Influencer
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Vallerand, R. J., Deci E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1987). Intrinsic motivation in sport. In K. Pandolf (Ed.), Exercise and sport science reviews, (pp.389-425). New York: MacMillan.
World Health Organization, Constitution of the World Health Organization, 45thed.(2006), online:WHO,<http://www. who.int/governance/eb/who_constitution_en.pdf>. [WHO, Constitution].
Online PDF – Smoll, (1989) – http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED302537.pdf – Last Accessed – 19th Jan 2015