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Parental Involvement in Youth Sports: Perceptions and Satisfaction

Role of Parents in Youth Sports

Parents play a key role in the youth sports educational experience. They are responsible for the introduction of their children to physical or sporting education and their involvement has been associated with sport participation in early stages. The aims of this cross-sectional study were, first, to assess the perceived and desired parental involvement by children and, secondly, to examine their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with any specific behavior. 80 male soccer players filled the Parental Involvement in Sport Questionnaire (PISQ) before or after a training session in presence of a coach. PISQ results revealed excessive active involvement and pressure, insufficient praise and understanding and satisfactory directive behavior from children’s parents. Our findings suggest that excessive parental involvement can cause pressure on children who would prefer parental participation characterized by praise and understanding. A balance between a supporting involvement without putting too much pressure is needed by the parents. To prevent burnout and dropout and to facilitate future practice, parents should be counseled (possibly by a sport educator) on how to positively support their children concerning their sport experience.

As it has been strongly emphasized during the last decade, a physically active lifestyle benefits health and social domains. Indeed, general well-being and good individual bio-psycho-social functioning are affected by physical inactivity which is a risk factor for illnesses in adulthood. Participation in sports in childhood and adolescence is related to an active lifestyle practice in young adulthood [5,6] and has also been reported to increase the probability of a high amount of physical activity in later life.

Parents play an important role in this participation, as they usually contribute to children’s initial sport involvement and provide concrete and emotional support throughout children’s sport careers [8]. Moreover, parents are those responsible to introduce their children to physical and sporting activity (PSA) [9] providing transport, access [10], educational, and emotional and economic support. Indeed, parents bring their children to the competition venue and remain there, which means that parents can potentially affect the child and their behavior with several instances.

The nature of parent involvement in organized youth sport has often been debated and criticized, with both positive and negative implications to children’s experience. Thus, the role of parents’ involvement in this educational process needs to be better investigated Int. J. Environ. Res. Public and clarified. Parent involvement consists of both parent support and pressure behaviors which make it a complex and multidimensional construct [13–20]. However, some studiessupported the opposite [21–24]. Indeed, several studies reported that children appreciate the participation and interest of parents in monitoring their sport educative activities, but that parents must be alert and aware of the level and manner of their engagement so that the experience of their children in the sport context can be positive.

Parent support has been linked to several factors related to sports participation such as child enjoyment and enthusiasm, autonomy, and self-perception of sport skill [15]. Parent pressure, instead, has been linked to negative outcomes related to sport performance such as the perceptions of a threatening environment, discontent, anxiety and negative impact [16,19]. Indeed, in players perceiving more pressure from their parents, a positive association with amotivation and a negative one with enjoyment was found

All the aforementioned aspects together with parents’ physical activity contribute to define their attitudes and behaviors regarding the sport experience of their children. Parental involvement and the potential pressure on children’s sport educational process are then crucial and necessary to examine, as these aspects might condition children’s efforts in those activities. Some researchers reported negative aspects besides the positive influence of parental support. Indeed, studies showed that parental expectations are a source of stress among young athletes, possibly due to the awareness of their parents’ efforts.

Hellstedt  proposed a model that describes three styles of involvement: underinvolved, moderately involved, and overinvolved. Underinvolved families, then parents, show little to no interest in the child’s sport, talent, or progress. Moderately involved athlete families balance firm parental direction with the child’s power to make her or his own decisions about goals, participation, and commitment. Overinvolved parents are emotionally involved with the child’s sport experiences and performance, and they tend to project their lives into their child’s sport successes [35]. Parental behaviors include dreams of fame, considering their child’s sport experience as an investment for the future, and also invading the coaches’ field of action, attending practices constantly and focusing on winning rather than on child’s skill and motor development, enjoyment, and health.

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