Sport is an important aspect of the life of young Americans. Undoubtedly, physical activity is beneficial for health and social skills. Thousands of young athletes pursue their dreams to become international stars like Tiger Woods or Michael Phelps. For many of them, sports are the chance to quit poverty and enter college. Naturally, most families rely on their children’s success and encourage them to achieve new goals. Often, parents provide moral and financial support, helping youth to progress. However, they often cross the line between supporting and pressing upon adolescents. This research is meant to examine scientific articles about parental pressure on young athletes, because the paper’s purpose is to determine how this behavior affects youth. This research will help the audience to understand how demanding parental attitude makes young athletes struggle. The aim is to establish if reliable sources provide specific information on pressure’s effects, prevalence of this behavior, opinions of involved parties, and ways to minimize risk. Evidently, although pushy parents are not that common, their behavior causes physical and mental struggle, and coaches can help parents switch to adequate and informed approach.
The review “Overuse Injuries and Burnout in Youth Sports: A Position Statement From the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine” focuses on overuse injuries and burnout which occur to youth athletes due to an inadequate training and psychological pressure. 208 sources were analyzed to collect data. The article summarizes risk factors which result in these negative consequences. Evidently, parental pressure is crucial for creating an unhealthy environment which leads to injuries and burnout. Parents make children start sports too early, and children’s bodies are not ready for intensive training. Also, they insist on early sports specialization, which increases the risk of injuries. Parental pressure causes increased levels of anxiety, leading to consequences such as loss of sleep and appetite, low performance, and dropout. The authors note that many parents and coaches do not understand children’s physiology, and they have unrealistic expectations regarding their progress and perspectives (DiFiori et al., 2014).
The article “The Role of Parents in Tennis Success: Focus Group Interviews With Junior Coaches” provides information on parental behavior from the viewpoint of coaches. The researchers studied tennis coaches’ opinion on parents’ role in training adolescents. The sample consisted of 24 participants. Content analysis of their responses showed that, mostly, parents were encouraging, supportive, and helpful. Only two coaches mentioned negative behavior. One of the coaches said that although bad-tempered parents are in the minority, their behavior often causes scandal, contributing to common stereotypes. Among the negative features, participants mentioned winning-oriented attitude, too much control, over-involvement, being pushy and too critical. Also, parents often emphasize how expensive it is for them to pay for training, causing additional pressure on children. Overall, state the authors, the healthy balance between support and challenge is the key to the successful parenting of adolescent athletes. A major part of parents can handle this situation, although some cannot (Gould et al., 2008).
The authors of “Supported or Pressured? An Examination of Agreement Among Parents and Children on Parent’s Role in Youth Sport” aimed to determine how both adolescent athletes and their parents perceive their relationships. The researchers conducted a study on 180 child participants of hockey teams and their parents. The purpose was to identify if children’s opinion on their skills, enjoyment, and parental behavior correlated with views of their parents. The results showed that adults and youths differently perceived the amount of pressure imposed on the young athletes. Moreover, parents supposed they gave more support than adolescents reported to get. Also, the adults thought that their children enjoyed sports more than youths really did. Overall, parents cannot adequately measure the amount of support and pressure they need to apply to their children. Evidently, adults often fail to recognize the needs of young athletes, and they need to improve family communication (Kanters et al., 2008). Apparently, it is coaches’ duty to mediate these relationships.
The article “Enhancing Coach-Parent Relationships in Youth Sports: Increasing Harmony and Minimizing Hassle” focuses on how parental pressure affects coaches and children, and what the instructors can do to minimize negative effects. Research notes that only the minority of parents causes troubles, although these rare events are widely discussed in the media. For example, the authors provide three stories when coaches were threatened, attacked, and even murdered by parents of their students. The reason for this behavior was dissatisfaction with professionals who trained their children. Evidently, this negative parental behavior affects the whole process of training, causing stress in children. The authors believe that these shocking assaults indicate a serious problem, and coach-parent relationships need to be enhanced by improving communication. The article provides sports instructors with information on how to achieve harmonic and efficient connection. It is noted that parents often lack knowledge on sports, become too involved and pushy. They do not understand the difference between professional and youth sports, focusing only on winning, not on development and recreation. Adults make their children participate in sports by threats or bribes, causing stress and destroying motivation. In the authors’ opinion, it is coach’s duty to explain these things to parents and protect their students. They need to realize that youth sports have aims different from those of professional athletes. Also, it is up to a child to decide whether they would like to participate, and adults have no power over them. To facilitate communication, coaches need to be patient and open. This strategy will help to protect young athletes from parental pressure, enhancing their performance and experience (Smoll et al., 2011).
Analysis of sources indicated that some authors’ relied on the stereotype about overinvolved parents. Gould et al. (2008), for example, start their article with listing scandals caused by such individuals and citing opinions of experts. Apparently, the researchers expected their interviewees to confirm that the number of pushy parents is high or increasing. Nevertheless, coaches’ answers refuted this expectation, claiming that only a minority of parents behave negatively. Smoll et al. (2011) also use dramatic stories to state the importance of their topic, although they admit that most of the parents are supportive.
Surprisingly, the researchers did not address the financial aspect of pressure, leaving behind peculiarities of parent-athlete relationships in low-income families. Instead, they targeted upper- and middle-class families who could afford training of their children. Youth sports is seen as a tool to help children quit poverty, and, supposedly, their parents can put additional pressure on them. Also, the works by Gould et al. (2008) and Kanters et al. (2008) have small sample sizes which could have affected the results of their research. Also, each article studies one kind of sports exclusively, and this information does not give a complete understanding of the situation.
When I was starting this research, I expected the parental pressure to have negative effects on children. Also, I suggested that athletes and parent see the situation differently. However, I supposed pressure to cause only emotional effects, not actual physical injuries. Also, I overestimated the number of pushy parents, expecting a bigger number of them to be pushy, not a minority. Now, I understand that parental pressure is a multifaceted social problem which does not get enough research. If I had known it before, I would have searched for studies focused on more diverse populations and sports.
- DiFiori, J. P., Benjamin, H. J., Brenner, J., Gregory, A., Jayanthi, N., Landry, G. L., & Luke, A. (2014). Overuse injuries and burnout in youth sports: A position statement from the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, 24, 3-20. Retrieved from http://revdesportiva.pt/files/form_cont/Overuse_Injuries_and_Burnout_in_Youth_Sports___A.2.pdf
- Gould, D., Lauer, L., Rollo, C., Jannes, C., & Pennisi, N. (2008). The role of parents in tennis success: Focus group interviews with junior coaches. The Sport Psychologist, 22, 18-37. https://doi.org/10.1123/tsp.22.1.18
- Kanters, M. A., Boccarro, J., & Casper, J. (2008). Supported or pressured? An examination of agreement among parents and children on parent’s role in youth sport. Journal of Sport Behavior, 31(1), 64-80. Retrieved from https://repository.lib.ncsu.edu/bitstream/handle/1840.2/2014/casper%204.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
- Smoll, F. L., Cumming, S. P., & Smith, R. E. (2011). Enhancing coach-parent relationships in youth sports: Increasing harmony and minimizing hassle. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching, 6(1), 13-26. Retrieved from http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1260/1747-9518.104.22.168