Thursday, April 4, 2013

Parental support in youth sports

Youth sport is a social system that involves children, peers, coaches, and parents, all of whom influence the development of a child's values, attitudes, social relationships and motivation to participate. When parents sign up their child for a sport, they want to support their child but also want to see them succeed.  So, as a parent how do you walk the fine line between being involved and being over-involved in your child’s life? 

  • Goal-setting - Create goals that are specific, measurable, realistic and challenging. Many coaches may already set short and long-term goals for individuals and/or the team - work on these goals with your child so they are more likely to do well and thrive.  
  • Focus on skill development - Have fun practicing at home with your kids! Not only does it help them improve, it will create great family memories.
  • Emotional support - Help your child deal with winning and losing, provide verbal encouragement and reinforce the positive lessons that sport can teach.
  • Expectations - Everybody has expectations, keep in mind that if an athlete cannot meet the expectations set out for them, they can lose confidence, feel anxiety/stress or dropout altogether. Discover what your child wishes to get out of their involvement in sports, ensure it is realistic and then help them achieve those desires.
  • Winning at all costs - Without a doubt, we want our children to succeed, but problems can occur when the focus becomes that of gaining trophies, recognition, social status or 'going pro'. Try focusing on moral development and social skills like cooperation, conflict resolution, self-control, teamwork, fairness and a good work ethic.
  • Getting caught up in the heat of the moment - Sports are exciting to watch, especially at high stakes tournaments, and sometimes we may shout out encouragement or instruction during a game. Done in the right way, offering support to players is obviously not a negative behaviour. It's when things get out of control - aggression, name-calling directed at officials or opposing team members, heckling, or even being over-protective - these can cause distractions or embarrassment for players.
Parents have their children's best interests at heart. Place emphasis on setting realistic goals, skill development and providing emotional support. Remember that most young players, even at the high school level, play sports to hang out with friends and overall, to have some fun

References from the SIRC Collection:

1. Kanters M, Bocarro J, Casper J. Supported or Pressured? An Examination of Agreement Among Parent's and Children on Parent's Role in Youth Sports. Journal Of Sport Behavior. March 2008;31(1):64-80.
2. Keegan R, Spray C, Harwood C, Lavallee D. The Motivational Atmosphere in Youth Sport: Coach, Parent, and Peer Influences on Motivation in Specializing Sport Participants. Journal Of Applied Sport Psychology. January 2010;22(1):87-105.
3. Lauer L, Gould D, Roman N, Pierce M. How Parents Influence Junior Tennis Players' Development: Qualitative Narratives. Journal Of Clinical Sport Psychology. March 2010;4(1):69-92.
4. O’Rourke D, Smith R, Smoll F, Cumming S. Trait Anxiety in Young Athletes as a Function of Parental Pressure and Motivational Climate: Is Parental Pressure Always Harmful?. Journal Of Applied Sport Psychology. October 2011;23(4):398-412.
5. Weiss M, Fretwell S. The Parent-Coach/Child-Athlete Relationship in Youth Sport: Cordial, Contentious, or Conundrum?. Research Quarterly For Exercise & Sport. September 2005;76(3):286-305.
6. Young C. The Importance of Putting the Fun Back In to Youth Sports. ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal. November 2012;16(6):39-40.

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