A recent tweet caught my attention: ‘One of the things that’s been important is, from the first moment, eliminating parents’ opinions from what we do’.
Parental behaviours can have a negative impact on the experience and outcome of sporting participation. When parental support is lacking children are more likely to dropout of sport. Parental criticisms and high expectations are strongly linked to young athlete burnout. Other studies indicate that young athletes feel obliged to continue training and competing in sport in order to satisfy parental expectations, which leads to negative psychological and developmental consequences. Some parents actively encourage early specialisation in sport, which also has a wide range of negative consequences for young athletes.
Removing this negative impact from the shoulders of our young athletes will have positive consequences. However, this is by no means the whole story. Parents can play an extremely positive role. Children who perceive more positive parental interactions, support, and encouragement, as well as less pressure from parents, will experience more enjoyment from sport, have a greater preference for challenge, and be more intrinsically motivated than other young athletes. Positive parenting will also lead to greater attraction to sports participation, and higher levels of involvement. Studies that I have undertaken with young footballers have shown that supportive parenting leads to greater levels of competence, increased social connections, and more moral decision-making in youth sports. These are wonderfully positive psychological and developmental consequences for young athletes.
Therefore, let’s not eliminate the influence of the parent. More can be done. What we need is education for parents. Will anyone be brave enough to pick up an evidence-based parenting workshop to increase the sporting experience of our young athletes, and the many financial and societal benefits that come along with those?