Parental Roles in Youth Sport Free Essay Example

The Crucial Role of Parents in the Development of Their Children

Today many parents are aware of the fact that sport activities provide certain benefits to their children. Statistical data shows that over 60 million young athletes are registered in organized youth sports (The National Council of Youth Sports, 2018). Parents play a critical role in physical development of their children. Research studies demonstrate that “seventy-five percent of US families with school-aged children have at least one child who participates in organized sports” (Merkel, 2013, p.151). As a rule, parents provide visible support to their children who are engaged in sport activities. According to researchers, “parents often assume the role of motivator, facilitator, even coach in the life of the young athlete” (Hoyle et al., 1997, p. 233). Parents provide not only financial support to their children as they pay for their sport lessons, but also they provide emotional and physical support. However, in some cases, parents not only support the idea of helping their children in engagement in sport activities, but they tend to “apply pressure to the youth athlete in the interest of excellence and success” (Hoyle et al., 1997, p. 233). Parental involvement can produce both support and pressure; therefore, for some children, it is easy to achieve positive results in sport, while for others, it is very difficult to succeed in sport activities. Parents’ contribution to creation of the youth sport environment is really huge because of the considerable psychological impact on young athletes generated by parental support. There is a need for considering the role of parent involvement in the youth sports environment, while developing specific training programs for young athletes. 

The Roles of Parents in Youth Sport

            As a rule, youth sport activities are organized in a complex environment which allows young people to learn new physical skills, gain new life skills, and to become successful athletes. According to researchers, “parents’ expectations of what the child/athlete will receive from participation in youth sports varies from family to family and also changes the involvement and level of support each parent provides”(Merkel, 2013, p. 151). Parents understand that their children who are interested in regular participation in youth sport activities and programs have many benefits, such as “learning new skills, learning life lessons, and being physically active” (Merkel, 2013, p. 151). In order to facilitate realization of these benefits by young athletes, it is critical that parents play different roles, including the roles in “supporting, helping, and assisting their child in the sports environment” (Merkel, 2013, p. 151). These roles affect success of young athletes in sports.

The Role of Motivator

Parents provide emotional support to their children who are actively engaged in the organized youth sport. Research studies provide much evidence that shows how parents contribute to creation of the positive youth sport environment, which allows young athletes to increase their motivation and self-esteem (Merkel, 2013; Hoyle & Leff, 1997). Parents motivate young athletes to improve their results in sports activities. The role of motivator is linked to volunteering activities. Parents are aware of a wide range of physical activities recommendations specially developed  for children (Bentley et al., 2012). In recent study, researchers found that parents are highly motivated to provide the proper opportunities for their children to be sufficiently active in their life, placing emphasis on the significant role of physical activity in prevention  of overweight (Bentley et al., 2012). Many parents are properly educated about the current physical activity guidelines for their children. They provide control over the ways used by their children in meeting these recommendations. Parents motivate their children to  promote healthy lifestyles due to recognition of the benefits of physical activity. For example, many parents make efforts to explain their children the relationship between weight status and physical activity. According to researchers, “alongside these suggestions for increasing parents’ awareness of their children’s PA levels lies the possible relevance and importance of increasing awareness of recommendations for adult activity levels and encouraging more physical activity  amongst parents themselves” (Bentley et al., 2012, p. 180). When parents are highly motivated to  participate in physical activity, they understand the benefits of their engagement in sports and they are “likely to want to enable this for their children” (Bentley et al., 2012, p. 180).

Increased motivation.

            Parents have a considerable impact on motivation of young athletes. In recent study, researchers examined “the relationship between motivational orientations and parents’ behaviour with regard to the players’ motivational orientation, motivational climate, enjoyment and amotivation” (Sanchez-Miguel et al., 2013, p. 169). They found that both  male and female athletes engaged in sport activities like basketball, handball, football and volleyball are highly motivated by their parents, who are involvement in the practices which increase enjoyment and motivation in the sport (Sanchez-Miguel et al., 2013). Results showed a positive relationship between parents’ support of the sport and players’ enjoyment and a negative relationship with players’ amotivation.

Parental activities.

            Parents are engaged in physical activities to increase their children’s motivation in sport.  Recent studies show that “both parents’ exercise patterns and encouragement have an effect on children’s exercise behaviour, and that physically active parents tend to have physically active children” (Sanchez- Miguel et al., 2013, p. 170). Parents recognize the importance of their participation in sport activities through elimination of various environmental barriers, such a “cost, time, lack of safe outdoor space, lack of activity provision, weather, and transport” (Bentley et al., 2012, p. 180). It is critical for parents to develop their activities in a way that allows to modify the above mentioned environmental barriers in the context of parental

engagement in sport interventions.

Parental behaviour.

            Parents demonstrate different patterns of behaviour which are shaped by socialization into sport activities. In this case, parents are engaged in physical activities that are viewed as part of the modelling process, in which family members are perceived as influential role models for young athletes (Sanchez- Miguel et al., 2013). This fact means that diverse youth sport experiences offer massive opportunities for young athletes’ personal growth and physical development that affect their psychological processes (Sanchez- Miguel et al., 2013).

Increased self-esteem.

            Parents have certain beliefs, attitudes,  and values that shape their impact on young athletes’ self-esteem. They can demonstrate their positive behaviours toward their children which, finally, contribute to modelling their self-esteem. According to research findings, “most young athletes believe that their parents provide them with a supportive, stable, secure and encouraging environment” (Sanchez- Miguel et al., 2013, p. 170). As a rule, parents are interested in assessing their children’s motivation towards a particular sport activity. This is considered to be the key motivational factors that contributed to their participation in this activity. Children and adolescents are highly motivated by the sport activities, which they find interesting and engaging. This motivation leads to increased self-esteem. If parents prefer the same sport activities, their children and adolescents become highly motivated. They can easily increase their self-esteem.

Parental activities.

            Parental activities contribute to increase self-esteem of young athletes because they  respect their parents, support their decision to participate in sport activities, and, finally, they are proud of them. Researchers conducted their study which involved Canadian tennis players aged 12-15 years old to identify the way young athletes would like their parents to behave during sport competition. Research study showed that the young players would like their parents not only to become involved in sport activities, but also they would like them to support their sporting experience (Sanchez- Miguel et al., 2013, p. 170).

Parental behaviour.

            The role of parental behaviour in increasing their children self-esteem in critical. Researchers found that verbal reactions of parents shape their behaviours which highlight the benefits of good performance in sport activities. Young athletes recognise the role of their parents’ supportive comments, as well as the role of their controlling comments, which often “include “remarks such as praise/encouragement, instruction, and derogatory remarks” (Sanchez- Miguel, 2013, p. 171). These comments affect self-esteem of young athletes.

The Role of Facilitator

Parents play the role of facilitators when they provide financial support to youth athletes engaged in sport activities. The role of facilitator is linked to fund-raising activities. Parents have a good understanding of the benefits of various types of physical activity in children and adolescents. Physical activity helps to significantly decrease risk of obesity, cardiovascular diseases, type-2-diabetes, and other health problems. Parents are ready to pay for their children’s engagement in sport activities to improve their health. Physical activity is associated with improvement of mental well-being of children and adolescents, as well as reduction of  levels of risk factors of cardiovascular disease (Bentley et al., 2012).

The Role of Coach

Any parent can play the role of coach if he/she provides physical support to young athletes. Researchers found that due to family participation in sport, children are actively involved in  physical activities which tend to promote young athletes’ “greater satisfaction and positive participation in their sport career” (Sanchez- Miguel, 2013, p. 171). Also, parents serve the role of coaches because they can easily foster children’s engagement in sport programs from an early age. Parents use their coaching skills to promote progress of young athletes in reaching their full potential in sport practices. Researcher state that “it is definitely essential to have a good environment during these formative years, and parents play a very important role in this process” (Sanchez- Miguel, 2013, p. 171).

The Major Reasons for Parental Involvement in the Youth Sports Environment

            There are several different reasons for parental involvement in the youth sports environment, including parental interest in their children’s achievements, parental interest in spending more time with their children, and others. In recent study, researchers suggest that the level of parental involvement in sport depends on different factors, both internal and external factors (Stefansen et al., 2016). There is a need for recognition of the new role of sports in development of the diverse practices of parenthood.

Parental Interest in Their Children’s Achievements

Many parents are involved in sports environment of their children because they are interested in their children’s achievements. According to researchers, “motivation has emerged as a potential factor that contributes to promote an appropriate physical activity” (Sanchez- Miguel, 2013, p. 171). Highly motivated parents shape the overall family behaviour because of the effects of various motivational aspects on decision making of their children. In other words, parents have a psychological influence in their children, making them aware of the benefits provided by the appropriate sport practices. Recent studies show that family members, peers, and coaches play an important role in youth athletes’ development (Sanchez- Miguel, 2013). The relationships between parents and youth athletes in sport practices are developed in a way that allows developing either adaptive or maladaptive behaviours. Researchers found that “the form and degree of parental involvement in children’s sporting activities impacts the effectiveness of parent–athlete interpersonal relationships” (Lisinskiene et al., 2018, p. 41). Various forms of parental involvement in sport practices of their children depend on their decision making.  In some cases, these forms are not encouraging because parents do not always support their children’s opinions (Lisinskiene et al., 2018).

Parental Interest in Spending More Time with Their Children

Also, many parents want to spend more time with their children; therefore, they are engaged in various activities that help to shape the youth sports environment. According to attachment theory, “early experiences with primary caregivers (typically parents) influence a child’s future development of close relationships” (Lisinskiene et al., 2018, p. 41). Attachment theory places emphasis on human behaviour, which affects motivational and behavioural systems. Young athletes rely on relationships with their parents, who promote interest in sport activities and give courage to explore the world around them (Lisinskiene et al., 2018). Parents want to spend more time with their children who are engaged in regular sport activities because of their ideology. The ideology of parenting is based on seeking free time activities, including sport activities, in order to pursue goals that they set for their children. Parents care for their children through promotion of their physical development (Coakley, 2006).

Parental Interest in Promotion of Complex Cultural Changes

Sports incorporates various activities in which children’s success depends on individual culture. The success is sport activities is visible and can be measured to determine the strengths and weaknesses of young athletes. As a rule, “fathers are more likely than mothers to have or claim expertise in sports” (Coakley, 2006, p. 153). The level of parental involvement in sport depends on the level of personal involvement in sport activities during adolescence and early adulthood (Stefansen et al., 2016). There are certain cultural processes that contribute to initiation of the marked generational change that can be found in the context of organized sports and the practices of parenthood, as mentioned in recent study (Stefansen et al., 2016).

Development athletic skills.

            Parents are aimed at developing athletic skills of their children to support their cultural values and address their cultural demands. Research study shows that “the involvement of fathers in youth sports is grounded in complex cultural changes and it has implications for families and father–child relationships” (Coakley, 2006, p. 153). Parental values are linked to cultural aspects that contribute to the success of their children in sports. Research findings proved the fact that “across social classes, parents see involvement in sports as normal, and as a way to connect to the child emotionally and to further the child’s development” (Stefansen et al., 2016). These facts mean that parents are interested in improvement of their children’s athletic skills through their active involvement in sport activities. 

Negative Effects of Parental Involvement

            There is much evidence taken from academic studies that proves the fact that parental involvement is not always beneficial. Many young athletes can experience challenges in accepting the fact that their parents may become involved in youth sports, and, therefore, these young people feel extremely pressured or even pushed to be the best at the selected sport activities. In recent study researchers found “a positive relationship between parents’ support of the sport and players’ enjoyment and a negative relationship with players’ amotivation” (Sanchez- Miguel et al., 2013, p. 169). Moreover, researchers found that the young athletes who experienced more pressure from their parents faced the problem of amotivation which had a negative impact on enjoyment in sport activities. Also, researchers suggest that improper parental participation in youth sport can decrease young athletes’ enjoyment of and motivation for sport (Sanchez- Miguel et al., 2013).

The growth of parental pressure

The growth of parental pressure leads to decreased enjoyment and satisfaction of young athletes in sport activities. Researchers found that “parents may believe that expressing disappointment regarding a child’s poor performance will promote the motivation for improvement, but from the child’s perspective, even well meant parental pressure can backfire and may contribute to a child’s lowered enjoyment and motivation” (Sanchez- Miguel et al., 2013, p. 172).

The key reason of excessive parental pressure.

            The key reason of excessive parental pressure that has a negative impact on young athletes’ self-esteem and motivation is lack of realistic views on their skills and abilities. In other words, in order to avoid having excessive pressure on young athletes, parents need to be more realistic regarding their children’s accomplishments in sport activities (Sanchez- Miguel et al., 2013). Most parents consider that their child should to be active. Of children display a lot of energy, they are active children. According to researchers, “parents of inactive children overestimate their child’s physical activity” (Bentley et al., 2012, p. 180). Due to changes in cultural norms, many parents provide support to promotion of a more sedentary lifestyle, which leads to the loss of recognition of the value of physical activity. Researchers believe that parents tend to suppress their children’s desire to become involved in sport activities, which leads to hyperactivity of children (Bentley et al., 2012).

Parental time schedules.

Parents are often busy at work and cannot spend much time on their leisure activities. In some cases, sport activities do not fit in with parental time schedules. According to researchers, “parental control and structure is essential for family life and normal development but excessive control undermines intrinsic motivation, reducing feelings of self-determination and impeding an inherent need for autonomy” (Bentley et al., 2012, p. 180). Research study showed that some parents insist on their children’s engagement in sport activities, although they have no opportunities to control their activities in a proper way. Researchers suggest that it is critical to balance family needs and provide children with an opportunity to make their own choice, considering the potential constraints of family life (Bentley et al., 2012). Parents depend on the use of the proper problem solving and communication skills that can help to modify their time schedules.


            Thus, it is necessary to conclude that parents play many roles in youth sport. Each role is important for a young athlete because it guarantees positive impact on his/her mental health, motivation, self-esteem, and physical endurance. Parental involvement is needed to promote a positive sports environment in which the young athlete can successfully develop the proper skills and abilities. Parental support is necessary for many youth sport organizations because parents serve the roles of facilitators, motivators, and coaches. Young athletes recognize the need for both the support of parents and parental involvement in youth sport for the reason that support from parents may help young people to become a better athlete. It is critical for young athletes and parents to come to an agreement on the necessary amount of parent involvement to avoid any complications in relationships.  Also, there is a need for recognition of the significant role of sports in the parent-child relationship because sport activities help to improve health, develop new skills, and promote healthy lifestyles.


Bentley, G. F., Goodred, J. K., Jugo, R., Sebire, S. J., Lucas, P. J. et al. (2012). Parents’ views on            child physical activity and their implications for physical activity parenting interventions:           a qualitative study. BMC Pediatrics, 12: 180.

Coakley, J. The Good Father: Parental Expectations and Youth Sports. Leisure Studies, 25(2):      153-163.

Hoyle, R. H., Leff, S. (1997). The role of parental involvement in youth sport participation and   performance. Adolescence, 32(125): 233-243.

Lisinskiene, A., Guetterman, T., Sukys, S. (2018). Understanding Adolescent–Parent       Interpersonal Relationships in Youth Sports: A Mixed-Methods Study. Sports, 6(2): 41.

Merkel, D. L. (2013). Youth sport: positive and negative impact on young athletes. Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine, 4: 151-160.

Sanchez- Miguel, P. A., Leo, F. M., Sanchez-Oliva, D. et al. (2013). The Importance of Parents’ Behavior in their Children’s Enjoyment and Amotivation in Sports. Journal of Human Kinetics, 36: 169-177. Stephansen, K., Smette, I., Strandbu, A. (2016). Understanding the increase in parents’     involvement in organized youth sports. Sport, Education and Society.

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[Accessed: February 4, 2023]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: February 4, 2023]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: February 4, 2023]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: February 4, 2023]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

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