Parental involvement in youth sports: The good, the bad and the ugly

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SUSAN PAPA

SUSAN PAPA

(Part 1)

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It’s summer time and sports is in everyone’s mind.

It is good to rethink what is sports?

Sports is a human activity involving physical skills and exertions, governed by a set of rules or customs, undertaken competitively and capable of achieving a result.

Let me share some insights based on knowledge and experience as related to me by Ramon Llaguno 3rd, a parent and a swimmer as well as an assistant Physical Education Sports Supervisor of the Department of Education in Legazpi City, Bicol.

A growing concern among those involved in youth sports is excessive parental involvement to the point of becoming detrimental to the development and experiences of our young athletes.

Llaguno observed as a parent that an increase in the number of reported instances engaging in violent, abusive and controlling behavior toward athletes, coaches, officials and fellow spectators has led many organizations to reconsider parents’ role in youth sports.

He stressed that, “We are becoming increasingly involved in the lives of our children. Greater competition for athletic scholarships and the lure of professional sports have motivated many of us to commit our children to specialized training regimens at an early age. We are also investing larger amounts of time and finances into the athletic development of our children,” Llaguno added.

He also learned that parents’ decision to send or transfer children to and from academic institutions are increasingly based upon the athletic and not the academic reputation of the school.

Although such actions are supposedly taken with the child’s best interest in mind, there is a concern that parents’ over-involvement may negatively affect a child’s immediate and long-term experiences in sports.

A parent’s moderate degree of involvement though is important as it implies support to a child.

Llaguno emphasized, “Our children’s perceptions of our support and involvement in physical activity have been identified as positive predictors of enjoyment, participation in physical activity and continued participation in youth sports. The problem arises when we become too involved in the lives of our children. When we are over-involved, they often feel that they have lost control over their decision to play sports.”

As a result, children who feel that they have little say or control over their decisions to play sports typically display less interest in sport, lower levels of enjoyment and satisfaction and are more prone to drop out of sport.

The keys to becoming an effective parent of a student athlete is to find out what children want out of sports and helping them achieve these goals.

As an advice, Llaguno said, “Parents and children need to discuss the issue of dropping out and explore what can be done to better meet their goals. Sometimes they need to understand that older youths play more because they are bigger, stronger, and more experienced. As younger players, they must continue to work, to improve their skills so they will be the best players when they will become the oldest players of the team. We must not lose sight of why youth participate in sport.”

It must be put in the mind of everyone that the most popular reason for playing youth sports is to have fun, to learn new skills, to be with friends and to experience the thrill of competition.

Many parents erroneously believe that winning is the number one reason why children want to play sports.

They become preoccupied with winning and losing, placing an unreasonable amount of pressure on the child and risk of ruining the child’s desire to get involved in youth sports.

We should also understand our role and the expectations associated with being a student athlete’s parent. Our primary role in youth sports is to provide emotional, financial and provisionary support to our children.

Emotional support involves activities such as helping a child deal with winning and losing, discussing tactics, providing verbal encouragement and helping understand the lessons that sports can teach.

Some of us become so involved in the lives of our children that we find it difficult to separate emotionally from our children’s experiences resulting in over involvement.

This causes undue embarrassment, guilt and stress whenever a student athlete performed poorly or experienced defeat in competition.

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