Parental Involvement in Sports

By Johanna R.

When observing youth in sport, one may notice parents sitting on the sidelines cheering only when a participant scores a goal. One may also observe another adult yelling furiously at a participant, referee, or coach from the sidelines. No matter what type of adult you are looking at, you are most likely looking at a parent or an adult who has a significant meaning to one of the children participating.

In most cases of youth participating in sports, the parents have placed their child in the sport and are going to support and/or pressure the child throughout his/her participation in the sport. This post will look into parental involvement in youth sports. I will be looking at parental support and parental pressure in youth sports and attempt to determine if parental involvement is for the better or the detriment of a child.

Parental support is classified as perceived behaviours by children of their parents which promote participation and performance in athletics (Hoyle & Leff, 1997). Parental support includes attending children’s sporting events, cheering children on, and providing children with encouraging, positive comments. Research by Hoyle and Leff (1997) concluded support from parent’s correlated with higher sport enjoyment, higher positive self-worth, and increased positive outcomes in performances.

Parental pressure is classified as perceived behaviours by children of their parents demonstrating intentions of unlikely, possibly unreachable levels of accomplishment (Hoyle & Leff, 1997). Parental pressures include expectations for the child to be the best therefore putting him/her in advanced programs to become the best. A study by Hoyle and Leff (1997) concluded pressure from parents correlated with the child’s regret from participation in sports, stress identified with performance evaluations, and negativity to self-worth.

As for a personal experience, my parents were the supportive type. Always travelling to games, practices, and tournaments, shouting encouraging words from the sidelines, and providing encouragement after a performance. There was never any pressure to be the best of the best or to work harder and better.

Looking at the participant’s perspective, in a study by Jeffery-Tosoni, Fraser, and Baker (2015) the athletes stated a preference for parents’ supportive behaviour, emotional control, and abstaining from demanding or argumentative comments. I understand where the youth are coming from in this study; when my parents watch me play a sport, I hope they will encourage me, but not yell out any harsh words to the coaches, referees, or towards me. Even though the preferred preferences are what the children hope to see, the parents don’t always abide by these unwritten rules.

One cannot determine how a parent will act in a situation such as sport. If you look at the research, it is clear to see, a parent who is supporting a child is providing positive outcomes on a child while a parent who is continually pressuring a child provides a negative outcome on children. Some pressure is good but over doing it can cause negativity.


Hoyle, R. H., & Leff, S. S. (1997). The role of parental involvement in youth sport participation and performance. Adolescence, 32 (125), 233-43.

Jeffery-Tosoni, S., Fraser-Thomas, J., & Baker, J. (2015). Parent involvement in Canadian youth hockey: Experiences and perspectives of peewee players. Journal of Sport Behavior, 38, 1.




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8 Responses to Parental Involvement in Sports

  1. akenny1 says:

    Great post Johanna!
    I completely agree that the more parents involve themselves in their children’s sport, the more negative outcomes there are. I also think its interesting because looking back at my own experiences from sport and recreation, my teammates that had really involved parents, also really excelled in sport. Even though some children excel in a sport due to tough parental guidance, I think that children aren’t participating and excelling for themselves but for their parents. I know that excelling in aspects of life such as sport is great for children’s self confidence but parents should make sure that having fun comes first. This can be simply done by parent asking if their children had fun after every game. If parents notice that their kids are having less fun as they progress in a sport, give them the opportunity to take a break and potentially come back to a sport. If children chose to come back to a sport this means that they are participating for the right reasons and they are enjoying what they are doing.

  2. Jessica W. says:

    I can definitely agree with Johanna. My parents were my biggest supporters in sport. I have two older brothers and growing up all three of us children were involved in more than one completive sport. I can honestly say that my parents put their children before themselves by spending every weekend travelling to games and tournaments.

    Having very supportive parents is the reason why I’m still involved in the same sport 15 years later. After practices and games my Dad would always point out what I did wrong and how I could improve. I loved it. It wasn’t until I was travelling in the car with a teammate after a bad game that I realized that everyone’s parents weren’t as supportive as mine. This parent would put so much pressure on this child; this soon was a contributing factor of why that child quit the sport the following year.

    Also, one year on my recreation ringette team one of my teammates was paid by her parents for every goal she scored. Personally I think that this is ridiculous, she obviously didn’t enjoy playing the sport but this was her parent’s way of keeping her involved and trying to make her the best. I would consider this an example of parental pressure. The parents weren’t necessarily putting their child into the best-advanced programs but it was negative behaviour on the child making them stay in the sport by rewarding them only if they scored.

    Like you said Johanna parents play a major role on a child’s development through sport. They can be an athletes greatest supportive system or their worst nightmare driving that child to quit or become overblown with negativity.

    Good Job!

  3. Heath R says:

    I love this post! I totally agree that when parents become more involved with their children in sport then the child starts to hate that sport. I have witnessed this through friends who were pushed to become a better player but just became tired of the sport. However, I also believe that parents can be great cheerleaders for us when we play a sport. I always remember that my dad would come to all my lacrosse games and cheer me on. He would never degrade me for my performance but instead give me positive accolades even if I had a bad game. I really liked what you said Johanna and thank you for pointing this out!

  4. Nicola S says:

    Great job Johanna!
    I completely agree with your statement that parental support reflects positively on a child, and too much parental pressure reflects negatively. Growing up playing sports, both types of parental involvement occurred. My parents were the supportive type as well; always at games cheering me on, as well as motivating my teammates to do their best and to have fun no matter what. They are the reason I am still loving soccer to this day, and they continue to support my commitment to the sport.

    It was very obvious to me which child received too much parental pressure. One of my teammate’s father was a very intense man. He only yelled at his daughter and it wasn’t the positive support any 12 year old needs. This really effected her as she was always nervous to mess up, and because of that her self-confidence was negatively effected and later resulted in her loss of interest towards the sport.

    I also witnessed some of my teammates completely lack parental support. One of my teammates had to take the bus to and from every practice and game because her parents just “didn’t have the time.” You could tell this girl wasn’t very happy when she arrived to the field, and she lacked motivation and confidence to play to the best of her ability. Unfortunately, these are the kids who aren’t playing sports anymore due to this lack of support.

    As you had mentioned Johanna, parental support is an extremely important aspect of today’s youth development in sport. Research shows that youth who feel supported feel they are connected to people who they value and therefore know that adults care about them. This feeling will create a comfortable environment, and result in higher self-esteem and self-confidence in sport and in life.

  5. phanley8 says:

    This is a great post Johanna! I completely agree with you. It’s crazy how much pressure some parents put on their children, eventually sucking all the fun out of sport. It’s weird to think about because they might think they’re helping, all the while they are more damaging than anything.

    Luckily, growing up my parents were the supportive type for my sister and I. Driving us to every practice, game and tournament we needed to go to, volunteering for home tournaments, etc.
    What was great was that they had never played any of the sports we played, and while they watched us as we played, they never firmly grasped the rules enough to criticize us, or anyone else. They were supportive and always encouraged us, but always stayed at an arms length from our sports. We had positive experiences, and dropping out of sport in school never crossed our minds because of it.

    I know lots of teammates and friends growing up that weren’t into the sports they played, they felt as if they had to play because their parents always played and had put them in it as soon as they could. Going to the games, you could tell who their parents were because they were more often than not red in the face from yelling at the teams and refs the whole game. It seems like some people turn into a whole different person when they’re attending a sporting event, completely checking their “other self” at the door. Which is where I can really relate to your post; parents need to realize that fun comes first when it comes to sport, and how important it is to support their kids through their activities!

  6. Darrion S says:

    I absolutely agree with your post Johanna!
    I believe that there should be a lot of positive parenting present when dealing with youth in sport. It can be hard to watch parents forget about sport being something to learn and benefit from, rather than just a competition. Being overly critical and negative makes sport seem more like a chore or duty rather than something enjoyable. Being a negative force in sport can deter adolescence and ultimately force an individual to discontinue participation. Parents may not realize how impactful their part in recreation and sports can be for a child. Although they have their best intentions at heart, their actions and expectations may not be doing any good. It is hard to accept a loss in sport but it is even harder to feel the pressure placed by a parent for not achieving their high expectations. Children typically want to make their parents happy and if they do not support a child with a sport it may not seem like the activity holds any value. If a parent chooses not to support their child in sport it can be just as high of a deterrent.

    My parents were always proud of me when I did well in my sport and when I was younger they drove me to practice and encouraged my participation. Whenever I lost there was rarely any disappointment and my family voiced their support no matter what. Although, when I got older it got harder to keep up with my sports as I had less support from my family. I started to take myself to and from practice once I was in the 7th grade, which meant taking the bus as transportation after homework and late at night. To be part of tournaments outside of town I had to carpool with another teammate or else nobody had the time to take me for the day. As I got older I had more responsibilities such as taking my sister to swimming lessons and to my wrestling practices with no car; also my sister hating going to practice with me so it was hard to get her out of the house one time. There were a lot of barriers when my parents did not have the time to support me in sports: I had to make sure dinner was ready and we ate it at certain times, make sure we both had change or bus tickets, time to work on or help with homework, and sometimes the buses wouldn’t come and we would be late. Nobody was against me in sport but we had very limited resources to keep it up. Although my life would have been more relaxed if I quit sports, my mother always made sure my club fees were paid and I knew it was a positive aspect of my life that I really valued.
    This all being said, I did not mind parenting my sister by forcing her to practices and swimming lessons because I wanted her to be active. I supported the facilitation of her in recreational sport, and although I would love to see her competitively swim I would try my best to always cheer for her encouragingly. Parental support is a huge aspect of today’s youth development in sport. Youth who are supported would be more likely to continue sport and reap the benefits developed while participating at any age.

  7. Bestey31 says:

    Excellent post Johanna! I can relate to this post on so many levels and agree with everything you said. I also had the very supportive parents who came to all my sports events and cheered me on. They were always a source of support and I could always ask for criticism knowing they would give me an honest answer. I think having support is extremely important for both youth development along with strengthening the bond between youth an role model adults. I have also seen the other side where a few youth on my teams growing up had very vocal parents. It was obvious to see that these kids felt stressed by their expressions and sometimes their performance. In addition I think support can come from all other sources other than just parents. Grandparents, volunteers at events and coaches all played a role in my experiences growing up with showing support. Like you said, some pressure is good and I feel like without the pressure, there aren’t many risks involved. I think it is better to learn from mistakes in pressure situations than to be looked at negatively.

    – Brian E.

  8. sportandrecenthusiast says:

    Great post, Johanna.

    Evidently, parents directly affect the behaviours and attitudes of youth because your parents are your first and most vivid adult role model. Fortunately, I have come from a very supportive family; my parents would drive me to every practice and game, without hesitation, and are constantly full of encouragement. I never felt pressured to do or be more by my parents.

    However, this is not the case for everyone. It is easy to see how feeling constantly pressured by your parents to perform better, regardless of the activity, would cause negative feelings towards this activity. This constant pressure may result in drop out of the activity, or even psychological issues such as lower self-esteem, a lower sense of self-worth, anxiety and depression. Therefore, I think it is necessary that coaches be aware of parental interactions and involvements with youth. Although a lot of parental pressure can occur behind closed doors, so this would not completely eliminate the issues of parental pressure. However, sometimes parental pressure is obvious in public settings such as if a parent is overly critical to their child’s performance from the stands, or is swearing, or verbally/physically abusing child after a poor performance. I believe in these instances; it is the responsibility of the coach and other parents to step in and intervene.

    On the contrary, I believe the polar opposite parenting style (non-existent/uninvolved) would also have negative consequences on youth development and continued participation in sport or recreational activities. I witnessed this firsthand in high school, my best friends’ parents were divorced and neither one was involved in her extracurricular activities. She was always getting rides with friends to away games and tournaments, which allowed her to develop strong social skills and connections. However, at the end of the game she did not have a parent telling her she did a good job and that they were proud. She did not receive the same support and parental recognition the rest of us on the team did, and I believe this is what disinterested her from the sport. She quit playing in her senior year of high school and I truly believe with proper parental guidance and support, she would have continued playing. Therefore, for parents it is important to find a balance between being present and involved in your child’s life and extracurricular activities but not being overbearing and placing overwhelming pressure on your child to succeed.

    Megan C.

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