Negative Parental Involvement in Competitive Youth Sport: What is the Solution?

By Ryan L.

As someone who has spent much of his adolescence playing competitive sport, I have witnessed a number of parents getting into altercations with coaches, officials, and even other parents. In most cases, these outraged parents had no justifiable reason for their behavior; they also did not understand the negative effect that they could have had on their child’s development when doing so. In order to foster positive youth development through competitive sport, parents must be made aware of the effects that their actions can have on their children. Whether it is at home, during a game, or on the way home from a game, parental involvement is paramount to ensuring an enjoyable sport experience for children.

Prior to finding a solution to negative parental involvement in competitive youth sport, we must first find out exactly how parents are behaving at their child’s sporting events. Holt, Tamminen, Black, Sehn, and Wall (2008) examined parents’ verbal reactions to their child’s performance in an under-12 soccer league. Results of the study found that 35% of comments were forms of encouragement, 35% were forms of instruction, and the other 30% consisted of neutral, negative, and derogatory comments (Holt et al., 2008). This means that more than half of comments from parents were either instructive or negative in some way; these children are not even 12 years old and they are already being put down or critiqued on their sport performance. Being surrounded by this negativity at such a young age puts children at serious risk of early sport dropout, which can drastically hinder their development as they approach adolescence. Goodman and James (2017) examined the views of both the parent and child with regards to parental involvement in soccer leagues ranging from 8-15 years old. Although children felt that the majority of their parents’ involvement was helpful, they mentioned that negative emotional responses from parents were very discouraging (Goodman & James, 2017). Now that we know how the majority of parents tend to behave in a competitive youth sport setting and how their behaviour can impact their child’s development, what can we do to address the issue?

As a coach of a competitive sports team, there are a number of actions that can be taken in order to ensure positive parental involvement, with the ultimate goal of fostering positive youth development. Prior to the start of a season, coaches should meet with parents and encourage them to be supportive of their children, as critiquing the child’s performance should be left to the coach. Parents should also be encouraged to call or meet privately with the coach about any issues that they may have; public altercations could potentially lead to bigger, unnecessary problems. As a league director, zero-tolerance policies should be implemented towards inappropriate behaviour during games, whether it be towards coaches, officials, or parents of opposing teams.

Although parents may be trying to help their child avoid the same mistakes that they made as young athletes themselves, they must realize that living through their child is not the correct way to support them. Empathizing with your child may come naturally, but should not cause you to get frustrated with them. Instead, parents should be supportive of their children and trust that the team coach will do their part in helping improve the child’s performance. Parental involvement in youth sport can significantly impact child development; whether this impact is positive or negative depends greatly on verbal interaction between the parent and child.


Goodman, M., & James, I. A. (2017). Parental involvement in young footballers’ development: A comparison of the opinions of children and their parents. Sport and Exercise Psychology Review, 13(1), 2-9.

Holt, N. L., Tamminen, K. A., Black, D. E., Sehn, Z. L., & Wall, M. P. (2008). Parental involvement in competitive youth sport settings. Psychology of Sport & Exercise, 9(5), 663-685.

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Issues with Gender in Sport

By Cam B.

For the purpose of this blog assignment, I have chosen to talk about whether or not social norms have an impact on the different genders in the sport of hockey. The observations I have made relate heavily to gender because of the stigma against what are gender appropriate sports for women and men. Even at younger ages and lower skill levels, there is a drastic difference between the treatment of girls in sports versus boys in sports.

First, there is nothing natural about gender, gender is a concept created in society through socialization. Girls and boys are taught at a very young age what traits, characteristics and personalities they should possess. Girls are taught to be passive, nurturing, submissive and caring while boys are encouraged to be rough, aggressive, in control and dominant. These culturally articulated stereotypes and roles children are taught to embrace have influenced the realm of sports. Stereotypically “female appropriate” sports include gymnastics and dance that have an aesthetic appeal and involve less power and strength. Boys on the other hand are encouraged to participate in team sports that involve heavy body contact, power and strength.

According to Schmalz and Kerstetter  (2006), authors of “Girlie Girls and Manly Men: Chidren’s Stigma Consciousness of Gender in Sports and Physical Activities”, stereotypes based on gender are much more frequent in sports played by females compared to sports men participate in. Schmalz and Kerstetter argue that from a young age children are socialized and show signs of recognizing appropriate gendered behaviours. Their research shows that although there is a gendered nature to sports, girls were more likely to participate in masculine sports than boys did in feminine sports. This can be seen in the increasing amount of participation from girls in sports like hockey, soccer, baseball, basketball and rugby, which are typically seen as masculine sports.

Hockey is typically seen in Western society as a “boy’s game” through gender-appropriate behaviours attributed to kids from a young age. The game involves dominant hitting, aggressiveness and pure strength involving masculinity. This is especially promoted through the highest level of competition, the NHL. Through observing many of my sister’s hockey games, it was evident that the issue of gender in sports exists. During some of the girls hockey games, the referees would blow the whistle right away after a player went down, but during boys hockey games growing up I would always see the referees wait longer and even wait to see if the player could get up himself. The coaches for the girls team often use more of a “soft-sell” approach to communicating with girls while the coach for boys team yells heavily at the players. The social actors involved including the referees and coaches, therefore, are contributing to the gendered approach to sports. Even in the game of hockey different rules apply to men and women. Why should safety differ from one gender to another?

Hockey in this perspective is associated with “manliness” and is involved in the production of ideas about masculinity and femininity. Based on different rules of hockey being applied to different genders, this reproduces the norm that some aspects of sport privilege men over women. Since hockey has always been associated with aggressiveness, physical contact and presence, this sport has been known to be geared towards men. Gendered norms and ideas about how males and females should act and participate in sports are reproduced in the game of hockey.

Works Cited

Schmalz, D. L., & Kerstetter, D. L. (2006). Girlie girls and manly men: Chidren’s stigma consciousness of gender in sports and physical activities. Journal of Leisure Research, 38(4), 536-557.


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Unplug the Phone and Plug in the Wilderness

by Taylor H.

I want you to think back to when you were a kid. What did you do for fun? Where did you play? Where were your parents while you were playing? If your childhood was anything like mine, it was similar to this – as a child I, would play outside until the street lights turned on, playing in the woods making forts, or running up to my neighbor’s house to play in our pretend kitchen making mud cakes. Parents were not glued to our hips while we were playing; they simply wanted us to be back in time for dinner.

So, what happened to the sense of wonder and imaginations kids these days seem to have lost?

First, we need to understand why youth are no longer participating in leisure and recreational activities that take place outside. It should be no surprise when I say kids now spend an average of seven hours a day plugged in to a device (Salo, 2009, p. 28). Kids are so concentrated with being involved in these non-active activities that they seem to be losing interest in all outside play. Only 40% of children between the ages of 2-11 and 8% of adolescents between the ages of 12-17 achieve the proper amount of 60 minutes a day of physical activity (Blanton, 2013, p. 325).

Right now, on your desk or in your pocket, you hold a little device that allows you to “stay up to date” with the latest news of your friends, family, celebrities. Basically, you can receive news from anywhere in the world. Social media is an incredibly powerful tool that can influence anyone. Another reason youth are no longer participating in the environment is because of the effects social media has on the society. Society has created this image that the outside world is a dangerous area to play. Parents now see the only safe place for their children to play and be active is inside or at a scheduled event such as a play date or sport event. This provides the parents with the comfort they need knowing that their child is in the presence of an adult. The world of play has turned into a well-structured environment where we set times for play dates and have strict rules that control when and where youth play.

Playing outside has been proven to have amazing benefits for the physical and mental health of a youth. During these developmental stages, it is beneficial for youth to explore and recreate that sense of wonder and imagination. Playing outside allows your body to absorbed vitamin D, it can lower the rate of heart disease, osteoporosis, MS and some cancers, lower the rate of obesity, create positive moods, lower anxiety, stress, and depression as well as create a better developed focus (Klasky, 2014). Its been said that youth that are involved in Forest schools, or school that provided natural playgrounds that are surrounded by flowers and trees are more likely to develop a sense of care for mother nature (Johnstone, 2017). In this positive environment children are challenged with understanding concepts such as where their fruits and vegetables come from, instead of just assuming they come from the store. They learn how delicate and time consuming it is to grow a tomato from a seed. When children are confronted with these new learning experiences, they are more likely to enjoy eating fruits and vegetables and develop a sense of respect for nature. Children that are more hands on with the environment tend to grow an interest in the field of science. This can provide them with a sense of purpose and a way to see their future.

Kindergartens Forest School. Where children can play while also learning valuable academic skills. (Kenny, 2014)

Natural playground where children are provided with the opportunity to play and explore objects in nature. (Kelly, 2014)

Social media is something we will never beat, so we need to learn how to work with it. Schools need to push youth to be active outside by making more field trips in provincial parks, local lakes, nearby trails to help encouraging youth to participate in nature. Make hands-on projects that involve going outside and studying nature. Create day trips or camps that involve learning and exploring the different opportunities involved in the wilderness. Challenge different apps that are available such a Geocaching, TeleStory and Wild Time. We want to try to encourage youth to use what’s offered in their backyards to help them develop to their fullest potential.


Blanton, Jedediah. (2013). The Feasibility of Using Nature-Based Settings for Physical Activity Programming: Views from Urban Youth and Program Providers. American Journal of Health Education, 44(6), pp. 324-334

Johnstone, Lori. (2017). Health and Wellness 2. RSS 4083

Klasky, Ben. (2014). Get hooked on nature. TedxTalks, Retrieved from

Kelly (2014). Nature Inspired Playgrounds. Be a fun mom, Retrieved from

Kenny, Erin. (2014). Flow Learning in a Forest Kindergarten. Natural Start Alliance, Retrieved from

Salo, Jennifer. (2009). Screen time replacing physical activity time. Physical & Health Education Journal, 74(4), pp. 28-29








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Early Specialization: How it affects Young Hockey Players

by Matt B.

The topic I chose research is: does early specialization in hockey affect young athletes negatively? The focus will be to see if early specialization in hockey affects young athletes health and well-being. Sport specialization is found to be a reflection of our highly developed society, as some think that children need to develop skill acquisition and enhancement at a young age to be successful. Over the past few decades there has been huge shifts from unstructured, spontaneous, fun oriented youth activities to highly structured programs and competition organized by adults. This fundamental shift has increased sport specialization in our youth sports as parents feel the need to do everything possible for their child to succeed, which leads to single sport focus at a young age. Sport specialization in youth is an issue that needs to be understood by all involved in sport including participants, teammates, coaches and parents. The potential health, psychological and sociological risks must be weighed against the benefits of sharpening of skills and the opportunity to improve level of play from amateur to professional. The purpose of my research is to find and discuss the barriers that come with youth hockey players using early specialization training and the benefits of diversifying young athletes’ sport experience.

Sport participation provides our youth with psychological and social benefits such as fair play, healthy competitiveness and achievements. Sports protects our youth, as physical activity can be used as a coping mechanism with stress and anxiety; it also can influence the way one sees him/herself, as well as improve social relationships especially in children that are competing in team sports. Children playing team sports are more likely to adapt to health-enhancing behaviours like proper nutrition and sleeping habits, as they are apart of a positive social environment. Participating in sport may also protect children from negative influences such as the abuse of drugs and delinquency.

Specialization in a single sport is a growing issue that has become increasingly popular, as there have been major shifts from unstructured, spontaneous, fun-oriented youth activities to highly structured programs and competition organized by adults. Parents believe that having their child specialize in one sport at a young age will improve skill development and their chances of making the next level; when really they should be trying to diversify their child’s sport experience. Parents and coaching must be educated of the risks that come with specializing their child in one sport. They also need to see how beneficial it is for children at a young age to participate in multiple sports as they are exposed to different movements and a variety of game situations that can improve their skill set. Sport administrators and coaches must stop modelling their programs after professional organizations; young athletes should not be training and practicing like professional athletes as holding them to these standards is damaging to their physical and mental health. Specializing young athletes in hockey can cause increased injury risk, psychological burnout and hinder the athlete’s development.


A systematic review of the psychological and social benefits of participation in sport for children and adolescents (2013). Rochelle M Eime. Retrieved from:

Early Specialization and year-round training is destroying youth hockey (2013). Josh Devine. Retrieved from:

What About the Single Sport Athlete (2014). John O’Sullivan. Retrieved from:

The National Post (2015). ‘One of the worst things to happen to the game’ Retrieved from:

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The Impact of Deployment on Children’s Development through Recreation, Sport and Leisure

By Savanna P.

Unless you know someone who is from a military family, you may not be aware of some of the impacts it has on the children in these families. I was fortunate enough this summer to have worked at the Military Family Resource Centre in Gagetown, Canada’s second largest military base, this summer as a summer student with the day camp. Expecting it to be like every other position I’ve ever had working with children, I was shocked on my first day there by how naive I was about the challenges these children face.

My first day of work, the last day of school for the kids, was a Friday. We were in the daycare in the morning preparing for the arrival of the children that afternoon. When the buses arrived and the kids started getting off at their stop, I quickly noticed the happy, last day of school smiles that I had experienced were not on the faces of some of these children. Talking to them I learned, some of them had just said goodbye to their best friends, or their favourite teachers not just for the summer, but forever. Many of these families were being deployed to different parts of Canada, and the kids were switching schools. Not being able to possibly imagine what these crying children were going through, it was all I could do to hug them and tell them it would be alright.

Given my background understanding leisure, sport and recreation this sparked my interest in a special way. I’ve since wondered: how does the moving, the deployment and the switching of schools impact these children in their leisure, sport and recreation pursuits? Would some of these children shy away from group sports or activities because they don’t know how long they will be there to participate? What does this do in the long run to their value of physical activity or leisure pursuits?

Unfortunately, there is not an abundance of research on this topic. However, I was able to find some information on the wives in these families, assuming the husbands were the ones in the military and while Werner and Shannon’s (2013) article “Doing More with Less: Women’s Leisure During their Partners’ Military Deployment” does not specifically focus on the children, the implications of deployment on their lives is outlined. Specifically, it mentions the idea that children often have a hard time dealing with their parents’ deployment, stating that “some children do not adapt well to a parents’ ambiguous absence, and the remaining parent must manage children’s emotional and behavioural reactions” (Werner &  Shannon 2013, p.64). Putting into perspective how these different emotional and behavioural problems are a challenge in themselves, the implication on their leisure, sport and recreation pursuits would also end up challenging for the remaining parent. Luckily, the military family resource centres across the country work very hard towards helping these military families in any way possible, but perhaps a bit more research in the subject of youth development and military families would be beneficial to families and centres alike.


Class notes and personal experiences

Shannon, C. S., & Werner, T. L. (2013). Doing More with Less: Women’s Leisure During Their Partner’s Deployment. Leisure Sciences, 35, 63-80. Retrieved October 01, 2017

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Social Inclusion in Sport and Recreation for Youth with Intellectual Disabilities

by Brittany A.

Youth with intellectual disabilities are often stigmatized as being incapable of participating in sport and recreational activities, as many individuals do not take the time to understand their diverse needs. Many of my experiences with youth have been with children who have intellectual disabilities. For anyone who has not had exposure to this kind of work, these children have the most energy, passion for life, and love, then any other people I have ever met.  Through these experiences, I have come to learn that much like other children, youth with intellectual disabilities also love participating in sports and recreation and can excel physically in such activities. I find it incredibly important to allow youth who have an intellectual disability of any kind, to have the opportunity to be physically active. Even more importantly, I believe that communities must promote social inclusion for these individuals through sport and recreation to allow for feelings of importance in not only the lives of youth who have a disability, but in the lives of their peers.

According to the American Psychiatric Association (2017), an intellectual disability affects one’s mental abilities in two areas of functioning: intellectual functioning (troubles learning or impaired judgement) and adaptive functioning (activities needed for daily life such as communication). Because of these delays in learning and their social skills being underdeveloped, youth with intellectual disabilities are often times excluded from sport and recreation organizations or programs. This being said, sport, as discussed many times in class, is a great way for youth to build and improve on elements such as self-esteem, positive identity, social skills, physical competency, and much more. By allowing the inclusion of youth with intellectual disabilities to participate in sport and recreational activities with peers their age, they can also develop these skills through physical activity whether it be structured or unstructured.

Another reason I find it so crucial to include youth with intellectual disabilities to participate in sport and recreation is because of their many negative health problems caused by sedentary lifestyles. A large amount of literature on physical activity and health suggests that individuals with intellectual disabilities tend to be very sedentary because there is a lack of opportunities and support for these individuals. As a result of this, compared to the general population, these individuals tend to be very unfit physically (Draheim, Williams, & McCubbin, 2002).

Over the past several decades this information has been taken into consideration and some amazing organizations have been created to increase sport participation in youth with intellectual disabilities. The Special Olympics (SO) is an organization that encourages physical activity for individuals with any type of disability and is potentially the most well-known organization of its type. SO is an organization that provides sport training and competitions through Olympic-type sports for youth (and adults) with intellectual and physical disabilities. Youth who have participated in this program claim that their self-esteem has been increased, that they feel support from adults in various roles, and that they have created friendships with their peers (Weiss, Diamond, Demark, & Lovald, 2003).

Organizations such as the SO have created a platform which allows children with intellectual disabilities to learn about and participate in sport and recreation. It has also positively shaped many children’s internal and external developmental assets such as their positive values, their social competencies, and support from others. This baseline has demonstrated that youth with intellectual disabilities are capable individuals who need to participate in sport and recreation just like anyone else. My wish is that in the future, is that these children, who have the physical ability no matter their intellectual depth, will be able to participate on sport teams and engage in recreational activities with the general public. From direct personal experiences working with youth with downs syndrome and autism, I have seen inclusion continue to be more accepted and I can only hope that this trend continues.


Class notes and personal experiences

Draheim, Christopher C., Williams, Daniel P. and McCubbin, Jeffrey A. 2002. Prevalence of Physical Inactivity and Recommended Physical Activity in Community-Based Adults with Mental Retardation. Mental Retardation, 40: 436–44.

Weiss J., Diamond T., Demark J., Lovald B., (2003). Involvement in Special Olympics and its relations to self-concept and actual competency in participants with developmental disabilities. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 24(4),  281-305.


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The Relationship Between Youth Burnout and Personal Well-Being

By: Haley M.

As I sat at my desk on the fourth floor of the library, where I felt as though I had been hibernating for at least a week, I asked myself “have I peeked at the age of 21?” This was one of the more disheartening thoughts I have ever had. However, at this juncture, I was sleep deprived, overstressed, and overworked. My well-being, motivation, and peace of mind were all low. Was I feeling burnt out? Absolutely!
Generations Y and Z are being pushed more now than ever to become overachievers, initiators, and groundbreakers. Whether the pressure to become these successful figures is self-inflicted, caused by parents, or caused by peers, youth are experiencing targeted pressure in all aspects of their life.

Rotella, Hanson, and Coop (1991) indicate that “burnout is a result of chronic stress induced by the interaction between a person and his or her environment” (p. 422). Stress occurs when an individual feels as though the demands placed upon him or her outweigh his or her capabilities or resources. When I think about youth experiencing stress, I envision the crammed schedule that youth experience today, and being shuffled from one activity to another in order to build a well-rounded resume. I can envision a parent screaming at their child from the stands at a hockey game because they did not perform their very best. I can empathize with the child who comes in second place and feels disappointed that they missed out on an opportunity to prove how good they are.

From personal observations, I have noticed that children who experience burnout are often the ones lacking balance in their lives. There have been recent studies conducted focused on the subjective well-being of youth, what role it can play in their lives, and how it can better serve them in the future. Park (2004) indicates:
Traditional conceptualizations of well-being, focus on only the absence of disease or distress, [and] do not provide a full picture of a person’s psychological well-being. Needed as well is attention to happiness, contentment, serenity, and life satisfaction, which can co-occur with challenge and stress (p. 26).

Park (2004) emphasizes the importance of the quality of life and life satisfaction of a youth; continuing by indicating “well-being serves not only as a key indicator of positive youth development but also a broad enabling factor that promotes and maintains optimal mental health” (p. 26). This can be tricky to achieve as studies have shown that life satisfaction can be correlated with authoritative parenting and participation in structured extracurricular activities. However, when this is taken to extremes, such as the yelling parent, where the adult relationship is no longer a supportive one in this extracurricular environment it is no longer beneficial for the well-being of the child.

Youth burnout can be avoided through balance, maintenance of quality of life, and protecting a youth’s well-being. Youth today face both challenges and opportunities and in order to address them, they need to be in a healthy and happy state of mind.


Park, N. (2004). The role of subjective well-being in positive youth development. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 591(1), 25-39.

Rotella, R. J., Hanson, T., & Coop, R. H. (1991). Burnout in youth sports. The Elementary School Journal, 91(5), 421-428.


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