Parental influence on children’s enjoyment in sport and recreation

By Natalie C.

Sport, in my opinion, is an important asset in raising happy, functional, well-balanced children, but the influence parents have on youth participation cannot be forgotten. Parents need to attempt to strike a balance between being over-involved and disinterested in their children because the negative effects of both can have lifelong consequences.  When parents become over involved they undermine their children’s abilities and can in turn break their confidence. They cause their children to become stressed and raise their anxiety levels while affecting their self-esteem greatly. Parental expectations of accomplishments are usually unlikely and are sometimes set at unattainable heights (Left & Hoyle, 1995; Locke, Campbell, & Kavanagh, 2012). The pressure often becomes too much for children to handle and will usually result in the child dropping out of the program and being resistant to entering a new one.

On the other hand, if parents are disinterested in their children and pay little attention to their individual needs, a child may not even have the ability to partake in a sport or activity at all. They often lack the emotional support needed from home to pursue an activity and are more likely to drop out of activities they are already apart of. These children will need the attention and help of other influential adults in their lives such as teachers, leaders and/or coaches.

Parents must keep in mind of the developmental assets needed to foster positive youth development. Developmental assets can be defined as the positive relationships, opportunities, values and self-perceptions that youth need to succeed in their lives and two of these assets can easily be linked to this topic. They include, external assets “positive family support” and “positive family communication”. Positive family support is when the child feels a great deal of love and support within their household and feels connected with the members within. Positive family communication is when the child and their parents communicate in a positive way while the child feels comfortable seeking advice from their family members.

Parental support is defined as behaviors by parents perceived by their children as facilitating athletic participation and performance (Left & Hoyle, 1995). According to Left and Hoyle, research indicates that parental support among youth athletes is associated with greater enjoyment and performance within sport. Pay attention to what interests your child the most and let them choose what sport or activity they want to be involved in while being supportive of their choices. Catherine Holecko suggests 9 helpful tips of how parents can ensure they are supporting their children without hindering their involvement within sport. She highlights the importance of being involved as a healthy role model at home as well as the other parents involved in your child’s activities. She explains that parents should try to learn about the sport or activity so they can be engaged while spectating but can also help their children debrief afterwards. Being present and realistic with your children is often rewarding for their development within an activity as well and teaching your children how to win gracefully and how to handle disappointment. You can do this by modeling the behavior you expect from your children and by showing them you are proud of them no matter what the outcome. I have provided the link below outlining Catherine’s 9 tips.

Keep in mind that parenting is an unbelievably difficult job and with the overwhelming amount of stress and pressure in life today it is becoming more difficult to be the best parent possible for your children while still maintaining a healthy balance. Parents need to initially be confident in themselves and their abilities to instill this in their own children. Involvement in sport and recreation depends greatly on the support and attitudes of parents.  I truly believe that proper education and practice can ensure children have a fulfilling experience while maintaining the positive benefits sport and recreation can offer.

References/Additional Reading

Catherine Hokecko. How Youth Sports Parents Can Help Kids Thrive. In Parenting: Family Fitness. Retrieved October 31st, 2013, from

Leff, S.S., & Hoyle, R. H. (1995). Young athletes’ perceptions of parental support and pressure. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 24, 187-203.

Firestone, L. (April 2nd, 2012). The Abuse of Overparenting. In Compassion Matters. Retrieved October 30th, 2013, from

Locke, J., Campbell, M. A., & Kavanagh, D. J. (2012) Can a parent do too much for their child? An examination by parenting professionals of the concept of overparenting. Australian Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 22(2), 249-265.

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5 Responses to Parental influence on children’s enjoyment in sport and recreation

  1. colleendaly says:

    Great blog!
    I completely agree, parents need to understand that there is a balance between over parenting and also a lack of parenting. Playing competitive basketball all my life sadly has lead me to see both of these types of parenting. One player was probably the most gifted athlete I have ever had the opportunity to play with. Unfortunately, due to to much pressure by her parents she decided to stop playing even though she was getting offered scholarships to Division 1 schools in the United States. Parents have to understand how much power they have on their children. If they choose to use their influence in a negative way, this can really effect the child.
    Also, I have seen parents who do not pay enough attention to their children. This has made players not care about their sport, and sometimes get in trouble because they know that their parents will not be there.
    Having a healthy support system is critical for children to develop in a positive way. I agree completely that parents need to learn and understand the developmental assets in order for their children to grow up healthy, happy, and confident.

  2. majay5 says:

    I really enjoyed this one, growing up in a home where my parents had to balance five children and their schedules really makes it obvious that when parents try to over parent the effects that it can have on the child. keeping a healthy balance is not only key but it is critical to the overall development of their child.
    Going off of what Colleen commented. when a parent has the power to influence the child in matters of secondary education it helps when they allow their child to make choices on their own. Because if my parents did not allow my brothers and I to choose our own path for sport then it could cause issues. For example my brothers and I were told we are playing hockey. And because it was not our own choice we did not enjoy our time. But as we got older and picked a sport like football we enjoyed it because it was our choice and our parents aided/supported the choice.

  3. f505f says:

    Excellent blog!
    I think you are 100% right, parents are key for a child’s development. In this day and age parenting has many challenges. Parents do need to have confidence, hoping for the best for their kids. I think providing a healthy balance of house-work, school, sports and play can keep a child on track. Parents should encourage their children in any sport he or she wants to partake in. Parents should participant in going to their child’s games, showing them they care.
    I played basketball all through middle and high school, rarely my mom would come to games. Thus being, she was so busy. However the games that she did make it too, It felt weird’ when she was there, but I liked having her watch me play.
    Some parents push their children in multiple sports at a time. In my experience, I know a parent who pushes his boys in so many different sports, they tend to get burnt out. I had witnessed one of his boys, crying because he wanted to keep playing baseball, but had to go to hockey practice.” Parents need to make sure they give their child time for play. I think play helps build a childhood and learning how to be independent.

  4. shupealyssa says:

    I believe their needs to be a distinct balance maintained between under-scheduling and over-scheduling youth throughout recreation and sporting activities. Over-scheduling youth seem evident in today’s society with engaging in one activity after the next. Although it is important to indulge in an array of activities, maintaining a healthy balance is a key aspect aiding in positive youth development.

    Growing up, I participated in various sports along with my siblings. From basketball, to baseball, to rugby I participated in every sport my school offered. With my father being a positive role model and an engaging parental influence through sport, he encouraged me to partake in sports and recreation at all levels.

    On the other hand, lack of engagement could hinder positive youth development and identity development. Neglecting the needs and wants of youth can hinder their participation and involvement in positive youth development. For example, looking at multiculturalism in sport; youth immigrants may not have the opportunity or accessibility to youth programs or activities within the community. This tends to happen when the parents of the youth immigrants do not speak the preferred language, language then becomes a communication barrier for registrations, sign-ups, and knowledge of youth programs available.

    Great article!

    Alyssa S

  5. b3emf says:

    I agree parents play an important role in youth development , with everything they need to find a good balance between encouraging and supporting and avoid discouraging their youth from sport. My dad always had something to criticize about my performance growing up and it was all things I already knew I had to improve on or did wrong so it didn’t bother me too much. I find sometimes when parents criticize youth they actually have no idea what they are talking about , with my dad I found it especially easy to ignore his sometimes negative comments because he couldn’t step on the ice without breaking a bone. I always knew he was just trying to encourage me to be my best however I think parents sometimes need to take a step back and just be a support system for their children ,they have enough criticism and own self criticism that they don’t need to hear anymore and sometimes its just good to hear some words of encouragement.
    Sam B.

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