Parental Influence on kids’ sporting experience

Thursday, November 20, 2014 - 10:20

Parents have a tremendous influence in the development and enjoyment of a child’s sporting life especially in the early years. Instilling confidence, emotional support and emphasizing development as opposed to outcome helps a child to focus on improvement and effort. A parent’s role should be to encourage the child regardless of ability, limit criticisms after a game, let the coaches do their job and also understand that officials do make mistakes.

Whether it is with their school team or sporting clubs, millions of children participate in team or individual sports. Not only is participating in sports fun for kids, it is healthy and can create a positive environment for the child to develop physically, mentally and socially.

How do sports help kids?

  • Physical development – Sports help build muscles, bones and reduce the likelihood of obesity.
  • Psychological development – Kids who play sports are more likely to have higher self-esteem, less anxiety and depression rates.
  • Social development – Sports develop leadership and teambuilding skills. It also encourages interaction with children from different backgrounds and helps them form relationships with their peers.
  • Character development – Kids learn to form goals, pursue excellence, cope with winning and losing and understand the norms between fair play and the desire to win.

During a children’s sporting event, you are likely to find that every child is different, develops differently and that most kids are there to have fun and not just to win. It is important for parents to have realistic expectations, encourage their kids as they develop and give positive feedback whether it is on the sidelines or after a game.

To a coach, having a single message creates an environment of happier kids and less confusion. Having parents who can reiterate the message the coach is trying to convey keeps the children, parents and coaches on the same page. This allows the coach to be the coach and the parents to positively support their children.

Success is not only about winning or losing. It is about effort, improvement and celebrating the little things your child does well. It could also mean learning a new skill or making new friends. At the end of the day if your child is having fun, the sporting experience is more likely to be a positive.

To enjoy a positive sporting experience, children need to focus on developing skills as well as the love for sports. Sports not only develop great athletes, they develop great citizens who are emotionally, physically and socially well developed. Essentially, it provides a controlled environment for both parents and children to learn and enjoy sports.

References from the SIRC Collection:

1. Baxter-Jones A, Maffulli N. Parental influence on sport participation in elite young athletes. / Influence parentale sur la participation sportive de jeunes athletes de haut niveau. Journal Of Sports Medicine & Physical Fitness. June 2003;43(2):250-255.

2. Dixon M, Warner S, Bruening J. More Than Just Letting Them Play: Parental Influence on Women's Lifetime Sport Involvement. Sociology Of Sport Journal. December 2008;25(4):538-559.

3. Downward P, Hallmann K, Pawlowski T. Assessing parental impact on the sports participation of children: A socio-economic analysis of the UK. European Journal Of Sport Science. January 2014;14(1):84-90.

4. Fredricks J, Eccles J. Parental Influences on Youth Involvement in Sports. In Weiss, Maureen R. |a University of Virginia (ed.), Developmental sport and exercise psychology: a lifespan perspective, Morgantown, W. Va., Fitness Information Technology, c2004, p.145-164 [e-book]. ;: 2004:

5. Holt N, Black D. Parenting styles and specific parenting strategies in youth sport. Journal Of Sport & Exercise Psychology. July 2, 2007;29:S170.