Over-involved Parents and Youth Development

by Kendra U.

The term parental involvement is defined as “the amount of time a parent spends in activities with the child, and participation in relevant areas of the child’s life” (Fagen, 1996). A strong parent-child relationship has one of the greatest impacts on children (Hendley, 2004). Fagen (1996) noted that high school students who have a positive relationship with their parents develop higher self-esteem and confidence levels compared to those students who do not have a positive relationship with their parents. Parents can play a highly facilitative and positive role in sport or leisure career development for youth. However, hence the word can; it is not always positive. Sometimes parents are over-involved in a child’s sport, and there can be predicaments with this.

When parents are over-involved in their children’s activities/sports, youth’s development and acquisition of assets that help them thrive are put at risk. Youth may feel pressure from their parents, which could lead to less enjoyment in the game because it causes them stress just to play. Youth may also develop a low self-esteem if their parent is constantly nagging them to do better. If parents do not let their children think for themselves or make their own decisions – it may simply push the children away from the sport completely and lead to potential drop out.

In a study done by Kristy Leigh Hendley (2004), she examined the effects of parental involvement on a child’s enjoyment and success in a given sport. 189 adolescents aged 11-19, along with 108 of their parents were surveyed. The survey was used to gauge both the child’s and the parent’s separate perceptions of the parent’s involvement in the child’s sport. As a result, 15% of parents admitted to the statement, “I expect my child to play better than he/she usually plays.” Around 35% of kids agreed with the statement, “My parents expect me to play better than I usually play.”

It was also stated that parents do not perceive themselves to be critical of their child’s skills; however, children perceive that their parents are, indeed, critical of the way they play sports. Parents indicated that they do not get upset after their child’s team loses a game; however, children perceive that their parents do get upset when their team loses a game. Parents perceived that they do not put a lot of pressure on their children to do well in sports; however, the children once again, perceived that their parents do, indeed, put a lot of pressure on them. Whether or not the parents think that they are criticizing, pressuring or stressing out their child in sports, it was shown in Hendley’s (2004) article, that they most likely are.

Parent involvement is crucial in sports because if a parent is disinterested in their game, the child may lack necessary instrumental and emotional support at home that enables them to pursuit a sport or leisure career. I believe it is important to keep in mind that if you are going to continue to be over-involved in a child’s sport, you must be a constant positive support system. I was very fortunate growing up to have involved parents within my sports, to the preeminent extent. My mother and father supported me by driving/watching my games, always supporting my decisions in every sport I played, and they even coached several teams throughout my adolescent years.  Whether they were my coach or not, they always informed me when I needed improvement through positive encouragement. They knew I could do better and wanted to see me thrive for my own personal well-being, not theirs. In conclusion, I strongly believe it is critical to be involved in your children’s sports growing up; however, not to the extent where it makes a child feel negative about themselves.


Fagen, D. (1996). Relationship between Parent-Child Relational Variables and Child Test Variables in Highly Stressed Urban Families. (0009-4005). Retrieved November 11, 2017.

Hendley, K. L. (2004). Parent Involvement in Youth Sports. Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management Concentration: Sports Management. Retrieved November 10, 2017.

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8 Responses to Over-involved Parents and Youth Development

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi Kendra, congratulations on an excellent post! I was very impressed with how well researched your blog post was as you provided numerous studies that backed up your statements about parental involvement. I would definitely agree with the conclusion you draw, it is important for parents to be involved with their children’s activities; however, it must be to the extent that the child does not feel as though they are being critically judged on their performance. I was lucky when I was little as my mom was just involved enough in my extracurricular activities and sports. She was supportive and would volunteer to help whenever we were competing. My dad coached my brother when he played hockey. Something that my brother indicated he really enjoyed was that my dad was able to give advice due to his own experience playing the sport. They enjoyed strategizing together and discussing future plays. While I didn’t experience overbearing parents involved in my sports, many of my friends did.

    An idea that Elliot (2008) presents in his article in Strategies, A Journal For Physical Activity and Sport Educators is that at the beginning of each season it is important for all coaches, athletes, and parents to be on the same page. He indicates that to ensure that all parties are communicative and have a mutual understanding for the future, that it would be beneficial to create a parent and athlete contract. The specific details of the contract would be outlined in the handbook that accompanies the contract. The details could include: athlete eligibility rules, expectations of the athlete, expectations of the parent, season outline, Coach/Athlete/Parent relationships, playing time and attendance stipulations, and a parent/athlete acknowledgement form. While I’m not entirely certain that this would stop parents from interfering in youth sports and recreational activities in a harmful manner, the contract would enable the coach to better support the athlete and possibly protect them by establishing behavioral expectations.

    Overall, it is important for parents to show interest and support in their children’s activities and sports. However, this involvement must not be harmful to the child as their involvement will simply be counter productive to the purpose of showing support. It is important for parents to find the balance of involvement to enable the opportunity for positive youth development.

    Elliott, S. (2008). Create an Athletic Handbook: A Contract for Athletes and Parents. Strategies, 21(4), 7-11.

    Haley M.

  2. kdaley3 says:

    This is a very important topic to discuss for sure! It is crucial for there to be an appropriate balance between being under-involved and over-involved, as both can be detrimental to a youth’s development. Your research was very interesting, the fact that parents have different opinions than their child on their involvement was shocking to me when I first read it. However, as I think more about it I realize it is pretty normal. As a kid, it’s so common to rely on your parent’s approval and praise for the activities they do. It makes sense that youth would be very aware of their parent’s behaviours and reactions to their sport activities. It’s important for parents to remember that kids are sensitive to their parent’s attitudes, and thus make sure they have purely positive reactions to their child in sport. Growing up as an athlete and as a coach now, I’ve seen the extremes of a parent being over-involved and under-involved, and in truth I’m not sure which youth I should sympathize with the most. I’ve seen parent’s being so over-involved it is visually having an impact on the kid’s enjoyment, and I’ve seen kids having to catch a ride with a teammate to make it to every game/practice. Each can be very harmful to a child’s development and the way they see themselves, their self-esteem, and confidence being the most affected. I guess the real question is, where do you draw the line? I think the key to reaching a healthy child-parent relationship in sport is constant positive encouragement and praise.
    Great job Kendra, definitely an interesting topic!

    Katie D.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Kendra, this topic is very relevant to today’s youth and your well researched and informative post did a great job of elaborating on this topic!

    As discussed in class, there are many positive and negative implications through parental involvement in sports. I agree with your statement about how there should be a balance between how involved parents are in their children’s sport and recreation activities. I believe that there needs to be a certain level of involvement by parents for youth to have the opportunity to participate in activities in the first place, as parents are often the ones paying and supporting their children in these activities. However, if parents begin to get overinvolved, their children might begin to have feelings of parental pressure and see negative implications in their self-esteem, confidence, anxiety, decision-making skills, etc. Growing up participating in many sport and recreation activities and now as I coach youth in the community, I have seen a high increase in the number of parents who are over-involved in their children’s activities. This has affected their youth development negatively as they are unable to create their own experiences, attitudes, and skills in the activities in which they are participating in and in the worst cases can lead to an increased number of youth dropping out of sport. Parents are essential in the facilitation and exposure to various activities that their children may be participating in; however, there must come a point where parents allow their children to become independent in order for positive youth development to occur.

    Brittany A.

  4. mackenziemarble says:

    Great post Kendra!

    I definitely agree that parental involvement should be at the positive end of the spectrum. It is so hard for kids to overcome insecurities that are created by peers and coaches; therefore parents must remain a constant support system that continues to encourage them even when their performance is lacking. Many young athletes put so much pressure on themselves to do well simply for their parents, they forget about the fundamentals of sport (building skill, socializing, learning team cohesion, respecting others). Parents need to be reminded that sport is more than just points on a score board, it plays a major role in how kids learn to play with others, build self-confidence, and stay healthy. Of course parents want to see their child excel in a sport, but at what cost? At the cost of increasing youth anxiety, discouraging their kids from playing sports, and removing fun from the game? A balance is required so that youth feel encouraged but are also motivated to excel to the best of their ability. Parents get too wrapped up in performance instead of placing emphasis the improvement of their child over the years of playing. Pressure can lead to a decrease in performance and self-confidence; therefore, should be minimized to optimize youth experience in sport.

  5. tgowan04 says:

    Kendra, great choice in topic for your blog post. I agree with everything that was said so I will elaborate more on what you have provided. Everything is good in moderation. Parents involved in sport can be something seen as positive, as it gives an opportunity for the parents to be involved in their child’s life outside of the home. It provides social networking not only for the child but also for the parent(s) as well. We are all social creatures and thus, sport gives everyone the opportunity to socially interact with other individuals. However, I agree there is a line that must be drawn in terms of parents being too involved or how you put it “over-involved”. The real question is when is this line subsided or ignored? Well in my opinion I believe an important part of it all is actually dependent on the child themselves. This can be linked to how well their coping skills are or communication with the parent, in which all link back to what you said about that social bond between the youth and parent. A parent should know when that boundary has been met or crossed. If they know their child well enough then that is when they should stop. From personal experience, my family has been very much involved in a variety of sports, including my parents. My mum was my coach and my dad, well he has just always been my number one fan. However, even though my mum was my coach which required a huge amount of dedication, she was never really in my face about it or “over-involved”. She volunteered to coach because no one was willing to step up to do that after the loss of a previous coach and thus, as a youth I ultimately respected that. I was always close with my mum with that regard. On the other hand, although I love my father dearly, there have been times when I was young that I had to tell him to leave the gym because he was being “too rowdy of a fan”. It was very embarrassing and completely uncalled for which as an adolescent girl made me push away from him growing up. I stopped telling him about games because I was too embarrassed to have him at my games. This to me is something I feel other youth experience, especially nowadays with earlier youth specialization in sport. Therefore, over-involved parenting in terms of youth sport needs to be addressed or else some parents may find their over-involvement may cause more of an issue which is a lack of involvement or youth quitting their sport altogether. All because of their parents and not based on their own reasons.


  6. marcusmcivor says:

    Kendra, this is a great post and very relevant in today’s society.
    I’ve been involved with sport my whole life, and to understand the importance and difference of being supportive, opposed to being too involved is a key thing for parents. Often times parents want to so involved with everything their children do, rightfully so but sometimes that can lead to being to involved. Sport should be a place where children can get away from the real world and their personal issues by simply going out and enjoying themselves in a safe environment. If parents are smothering their children at home and away from home, they’ve become too involved, which can lead to a negative experience in sport. Sport has coaches for a reason, allow for them to do their job, allow for children to make other relationships with people other than parents, this could be very beneficial for their development as a person.

  7. jmunn1 says:

    Very insightful post Kendra, well done!

    I wholeheartedly agree that parents have perhaps the most important role in ensuring their child’s positive development in sport through involvement with their sports activities. There is a very fine line between positive involvement and overparenting which many parents cross. I believe this is because parents truly think that they are being a positive influence on their development by being involved and showing an interest, which is true in many cases. However, how parents think they may be coming across to their children and how the children perceive their parents attitudes are very different as you mentioned.
    While parents believe they are showing the child support in their sport, children feel the weight of their parents expectations and criticisms which can very seriously affect their performance and opinions of their own abilities.

    It is crucial for parents to be aware of just how much their level of involvement can affect their child’s overall development as well as in sports. As we discussed in class, overparenting ( in this case overinvolvement in sports) can create an environment where children are less comfortable making decisions for themselves. In the other hand, parents who are not involved enough may not be able to ensure their child is having a positive experience in their sporting activity.

  8. carsonmatchett says:

    Great post Kendra, very enjoyable read.

    I can relate very closely to the idea of parental overinvolvement due to the fact that my parents sometimes unknowingly did so. I remember being as young as 9 or 10 years old and having my parents encourage me to do power skating and hockey school all summer long when it was quite evident that I did not usually want to do so. I tried to communicate year after year to them that I did not want to do more than one hockey school a summer and that I had other interests and friends to catch up with, yet they insisted that I should do more and eventually I would always give in. Due to this overinvolvement from my parents I missed out on many developmental opportunities in other areas of my social and leisure activity. My friend group became narrower than I would have liked it to have been and my stress levels were constantly very high due to the feeling of always having to impress. Although I do not hold this against my parents I have since talked to them about it and learned that they had the misconception that what they were doing was best for me. This overinvolvement and encouragement from parents for their children to specialize in one particular sport so early can have many negative effects on youth and in my case ultimately lead to burn out and a loss of interest in the sport that I was once so passionate about.

    – Carson

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