An Analysis of Parents Involvement in Youth Sports and Athletic Programs

Topics: Goals In Life

The involvement of adults in children athletic programs can be looked at in both positive and a negative ways. This statement is true simply because of the different types of parents and their styles of parenting found in the world today. First, there are the parents who ease their child into athletics with caution by letting them choose what they want to pursue, be that sports or not.

Second are the parents who want their kids involved in just about everything under the sun to fulfill the childhood that they (the parents) never had, and in turn, end up over working the child to the point that the athletics the child is involved in become less and less appealing.

In brief, this is exactly what is wrong with youth sports. There is too much money, too much parent involvement and too many brokenhearted children who think they are not good enough for their parents. Not to mention too many well-meaning adults who have no clue about any of the stuff going on with the youth of today.

Three out of four American families with school-aged children have at least one playing a sport, making a total of about forty-five million kids. By age fifteen, as many as eighty percent of these children have quit whichever sport they were involved in, according to the Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine. One reason is the gap between the child’s desire to have fun and the misguided notion among some parents that their kids’ games are a miniature version of grown-up competitions, where the only goal is to win and not to have fun (which most youth sports organizations promote as the overall goal for their youth athletes.

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In an article by Karin Lindstrom Bremer of Minnesota State University, called Parental Involvement, Pressure, and Support in Youth Sport: A Narrative Literature Review she assesses this relationship between parents and their athlete children. In this narrative review of the literature, Bremer describes what is understood about parenting and family dynamics in families with a child athlete. She also discusses the research through the framework of family systems in America. The primary goal of Bremer’s narrative review is to, “use family systems theory to understand the current state of research and to suggest how future research might examine families in which a child athlete participates in youth sport,” Bremer states.

The main thing in the article that stood out to me was when Bremer breaks down the different parenting styles discussed earlier into “three different types of involvement.” There are under involved parents that care very little to nothing about their children’s improvement, progress or even the sport in general. Under involved parents lack investment of emotional, financial, or practical energy in the child’s activities and do not spend much effort guiding their child athlete in the direction they should be headed.

In my opinion, that is definitely not the right way to introduce a child into sports or how to set an example as a parent. There then are ‘moderately involved’ parents, who set a balance between relationships, households and the sports. They let the kids make a decision about goals, participation and commitment. They do provide financially mostly with the fees and equipment but they may make their kids do extra chores (which I feel is absolutely fair.) They leave the coaching to those working with the kids on the field and attend games frequently. I would like to think this is the way most families in America function.

This is a very happy medium for parents to be involved just enough while teaching your kids good morals simultaneously. The over involved parents are just as awful as they sound; they much too focused on their child’s athletic performance and talent reaching perfection. These are the parents that live vicariously through their child’s experiences to fulfill an empty hole left open from their time in youth athletics. They put all their investments in the future that they see for their kids. They push the coaches farther than the point they signed on for. These parents sometimes even attend practices, which anyone involved in athletics knows, isn’t an appropriate or necessary habit.

Although some parents guilty of these crimes have good intentions, this mean of parenting is by no means okay; it can even push the child to the point of wanting to quit because they feel like they are being pushed. Worse, it can damage the child permanently just from the overwhelming pressure to be perfect.

Michigan State University, Steven Wilson of Purdue University and Meghan McDonough of Purdue University takes a more statistic look on the relationship between young athletes and their parents. This article is mainly focused on a study that was taken on two mothers and two fathers from four families in the Midwest.

These parents had children who were playing organized sports for the first time. The parent’s athletic backgrounds varied; some former college athletes, some with little to no background in sports. The researchers used speech transcript technology to observe the sideline behaviors or the parents.

The data that was collected varied from family to family. It also depended on that sport they were playing and how their initial relationship with their children was. In many of the cases that were observed, if the parents had any negative output they would change it and try to get better in the following seasons. In most cases, the parents were able to spend more time with their children because of the sports. The parents also noticed a change in how the children acted at home, they brought their sportsmanship from the team into the homes and improved their behavior off the field.

In both articles the authors seemed to want the same thing to be expressed to the target audiences. Since these were very studious articles they were not very biased in their writing and data collection. The authors of both articles wanted to just explore to see if there were negative or positive effects of parent’s involvement in youth sports.

Neither articles disagreed with the other, they had pretty similar viewpoints. The first article written by Karin Lindstrom Bremer was just explaining all of the factors that go into how sports may affect the way households in the United States are portrayed. The second article I read by the collection of scholars was a different type because they didn’t insert any opinions, leaving it up explain to interpretation by the reader. They just put the statistics and results of the study out there (and although it was only four families, one is able to draw a pretty vivid conclusion from the data itself.)

These articles were written very well, and in a way that shed light on information about families who put their children in sports. The first one was an excellent read because it helped with interpreting the data given in the second article I read. In conclusion, I think that parents need to tread lightly when it comes to youth sports. They should have “moderate involvement” just like Bremer stated. There shouldn’t be a looming shadow on what the kids are trying to accomplish. It is a time in their lives where they want to explore what they may want to pursue later in life.

I know from personal experiences that standing over your child and expecting perfection out of them will drain the fun out of the activity. This isn’t only true in the world of youth athletics – parents expecting too much out of their children in general is walking a very dangerous line that can lead to significant self esteem damage. Parents need to give their kids space to choose what they want to do, how they want to pursue it, and whether or not they want to be better at it. Expecting perfection isn’t fun for anyone.

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An Analysis of Parents Involvement in Youth Sports and Athletic Programs. (2022, Dec 16). Retrieved from

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