By Jordan M.
I grew up surrounded by sport my entire life. I have played all the different sports one could imagine as a youth in Canada. There was one common trend I always noticed whether it was a team or individual sport. That common trend was favoritism.
The first time I noticed this happening was in hockey because the coach was also the father of one of the players. His son was by no means the best player on the team, but he got the most playing time along with his two best friends. I never really minded it until the few times that it was my rotation to go on the ice and the coach kept me and a few others benched to let his son and friends play. A study done by Weiss and Fretwell (2005) from the University of Virginia showed that a child who is coached by a parent is going to have more pressure put on them to perform at a higher level than the other players on a team. This connects to children being excluded from playing because of the coach focusing so much on their own child. This is something I have witnessed time a time again.
Later on in my youth, I started playing tennis. I started a lot later in life than the other players who had been playing since they were five or six. I worked on my game for years to catch up to them and ended up being in the running for the 2009 Canada Games. The head coach was also the father of one of the players and the father would always show a high level of favoritism towards his son over the other players. When Canada Games training would occur, I would not get the invite because he only took the players he wanted to participate. When the tryouts finally happened, I came in third place and the two players who beat me were the two my coach would give special attention to. I felt like I never had a chance to be successful due to this treatment and it caused me to lose my passion for the sport.
Favoritism goes beyond what the coaches are doing and can even be linked to referees all the way up to the professional level. A study found that referees will have a bias for their home team due to social pressures from the crowd (Garicano, Palacios-Huerta, & Prendergast, 2005). This can be related back to coaching because as a coach myself, I too, at some points, feel social pressures from parents to spend some more attention to their child. This social pressure also stems from putting a higher priority on winning rather than enjoying what one is doing. I have observed this more than a handful of times back in my youth when I did team sports. The best players would always play more because my coach wanted the team to win instead of allowing all the children to have their fair time playing the sport.
In conclusion, every athlete has dealt with favoritism at one point or another. It is something that parents, coaches, and other athletes need to stop in order for athletics to keep its fun and inclusive environment. Throughout my life, I have learned to deal with favoritism but I fear for that one child who will not to how to cope and will drop out of sport because of it. If sport does not feel like home than the children will not play.
“Our homes travel with us. They are wherever we feel loved and accepted.”
― Kamand Kojouri
Frank Jacobs, Froukje Smits, Annelies Knoppers. (2016) ‘You don’t realize what you see!’: the institutional context of emotional abuse in elite youth sport.
Garicano, L., Palacios-Huerta, I., & Prendergast, C. (May 01, 2005). Favoritism Under Social Pressure. The Review of Economics and Statistics
Stewart, C. (January 01, 2013). The Negative Behaviors of Coaches: “Don’t Be This Guy!”. Physical Educator
Weiss, M. R., & Fretwell, S. D. (September 01, 2005). The Parent-Coach/Child-Athlete Relationship in Youth Sport: Cordial, Contentious, or Conundrum?. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport