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How Does Parental Involvement Affect Youth Sports Today?

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For this research paper, an understanding of the role that sports parents play will be demonstrated as well as what it tells us about the impacts and pressures it has on children in youth sports. The main reason why this topic is important is because many athletes as children cannot really recall being forced to play a sport it when in reality they were. Parents would often say that it was more of if you wanted to play you could play and that it was strictly upon their choice but that was not the reality of it. This occurred mainly because playing a sport had more benefits versus staying at home and doing nothing. Many parents are in fact strict. When doing something, whether it’s playing with a friend or reading a book or anything like that you had to be active in some way. When you really think about it in a sense the child is still pushed to play some type of activity rather than being at home and not doing anything at all.

An example where a child could be experiencing being pressured or forced to play a sport he does not want to play would be if at the age of five he begins to play basketball and flag football. While on the youth basketball team, the other players can tell that he does not want to be there at all. Many times at practice where the team would be in layup lines and his turn to go shoot a layup would come up once someone else passed him the ball, he just stands there and it seemed as if he does not want to be there at all. Everyone can tell that he does not want to be there. Because of his performance in practice, the coaches do not really put him in much during the game and if he did it was for a couple of minutes because he had to for the reason of pay to play at a young age. This is compelling to me because there are many instances where young team players do not wish to play a sport yet the parents continue to push them to stay and keep playing. Which is in a way wrong because it has nothing to do with what the child wants to do, but instead it is strictly about what the parent has planned for their child. This very common today as well as in the past. It is an interesting topic to touch on considering parents should focus more on the interests of their kids rather than what they personally want for them.

Parental involvement in players’ games or tournaments often has a big impact on the performance of the players, their self-esteem, and their level of enjoyment. This results in a negative or positive outcome of the game or tournament. Support doesn’t only mean support on the sideline, but financial and physical support can all affect how a player perceives the sport they play and essentially affects the outcome of their performance as well. With lack of support, a player may not feel motivated to do their best during a game and may also not care for the outcome much as much as a player with a good support system would. I will agree that support in any situation in general can play a big part in your performance. It motivates you to do the best you can to make yourself and them proud versus having little to no support can often cause some type of discouragement while trying to meet your goal.

In sports, parental pressure can also be a issue. There is a big difference between parental support and parental pressure and in some cases parental pressure can occur while the parent thinks they are being motivating to their child when in reality they are just causing stress that can lead to a negative performance. Good performance also does not always mean positive self-esteem because if the support system is lacking, the athlete may not feel the need to feel good about themselves when having a positive outcome during a game. Having the support from family and friends really pushes you to do the best you can because you know they are there watching and supporting. Also, not being pressured to do good provides less stress to the player during the game to do good because they know that no matter if they do good or bad, their support system will still remain the same.

During research it was found that there were different kinds of parenting styles. Specifically, there was a focus of which one was the worse and what role it played. The crazed fan involvement style parent happened to be the worse on the field. They are the parents that arguing with the coach and referee, are derogatory toward the opposite team, disruptive by excessive yelling, and fanatically cheering (Omli, & Wiese- Bjornstal). Some actions that a “crazed fan- parent” would do is run down from the stands or sideline and attack the referee verbally or physically. An example of a type of parental attacks is when they question the referee’s calls by yelling out, “What is that call? There is no foul there!”. Which are the parents you typically see in almost every event ranging from little league all the way up to the professionals.

An article supporting this topic was: What makes a nightmare sports parent? In the article, college athletes were asked what was the worst memory that they had since high school and youth sports? Many of the athletes responded by stating that the ride home was the worse. According to the studies, to the different schools and things like that and talking to these different parents was a way to make parents aware of the nightmare parent that they may be, but the parents just do not realize it. Moms and dads that usually make the rides home from these games horrible and do it without even recognizing it at all. “They aren’t stereotypical horrendous sports parents, the ones who scream at referees, loudly second-guess coaches or berate their children” (Henson). This was another very interesting point brought up. You would think that the parents who would make these rides home horrible for their child, would be the ones who are the loudest in the games and yelling at their child while their playing telling them to do this and do that. Though, that is not usually the case according to this article. A lot of current athletes recall playing youth sports that after a game, if it was a loss, feeling horribly bad about the results and the reason being was because of how competitive they were. So, the distinction that is made in the article is that most kids usually like to go from athlete back to child and want their parents to go from coach back to mom or dad. Supportive parents are categorized in a friendly light. These are the parents that are mostly silent, cheering, encouraging, praising, show empathy, and have protective interventions when reasonable. These are the types of parents that clap and cheer for their children when they had a good play or even when they did not achieve well. Parents that are categorized as the supportive kind will commonly yell “You got this!” or “Nice goal!”. These parents will only intervene when the game is getting too rough and the official is not doing a good job in keeping the players safe. When college athletes were asked about what made them continue playing their specific sport, there was an overwhelming amount of responses that directed to their parents saying they love to watch them play (Henson). A current athlete said that back when they played youth sports, they used to love it honestly when their grandparents came to see them play, it was just more relaxing for them because they knew their mom wasn’t going to say much during or after the game about the outcome of the game. ‘Overall, grandparents are more content than parents to simply enjoy watching the child participate,’ he says. ‘Kids recognize that'(Henson). Grandparents usually don’t care as much about the game itself, but more about if it was fun to the kid or not. A way to not be the nightmare parent and to help make that ride home a little bit better would be to just simply let the game come to you. For instance, if a kid had a game that they lost and on the ride home the kid just decides to come out and talk about it is perfectly fine. Without blurting things out that they did wrong and whose fault it is that they loss. You should not force it upon the child to talk about the game. They will talk about it if they want to talk about it if not just leave it alone because maybe they don’t want to speak about. They could just want to make that transition from athlete back to child.

A pressure that I saw was reoccurring during my research was winning. A pressure that kids tend to have to deal with is winning many parents do not recognize it, but they tend to instruct their child that winning is the only way mainly because that is based on how our society is viewed today. And parents tend to not like to see their team lose because they have as well put in time and money in this as well and when a child sees that their parent doesn’t take losing well they will do the same and feel as if they let their parent down. A parent in an article I read said,

“I worked hard, I spent hours in preparation and I wanted to win. I had organized snacks and brought drinks. I scrubbed uniforms and cleats. I drove for miles, arrived an hour early, stood in freezing temperatures, forsaken anything else I might have done with my day. I did not want to return home without a win” (Hefferman).

This quote illustrates all of the ways that parents place their time and focus to youth sports and you never know, maybe the parents on the team are not the people a child’s parent doesn’t want to be around and don’t all go on. Also, the fact that they have driven many miles to stay in a hotel that may not be the best hotel at all, but the fact that they’re investing all of this time and parents sacrificing other like going out with their adult friends and having a drink or whatever it may be that they do on their free time but yet they’re invested in their child. Therefore, most parents are compelled to remember more or less the fact that they have put all this time and ferment into your child’s game. So, many parents put the pressure of telling them that they better win the game since where investing all of this time. Which is a pressure that children are faced with because ultimately when you think about it obviously the coach and team wants to win, but a child knowing that they could let their parent down is a pressure a kid should not be faced with over youth sports.

This relates back to what was mentioned earlier about how parents are so focused on winning. The main reason behind that is the fact that they put in money and it’s also not just money that they put into their child’s sport. Money alone spent on sports is an enormous amount when you get into the traveling sports because not only do you have to pay for the tournament itself, but the fact that you have to pay for the gas and food while you’re there is well is another reason how parent get way into sports and could put a toll on a parent financially. Parents do things such as, concessions and things like that so that makes them be more invested in the sense of how in reality they’re working to raise money for the team with them working in the concessions stands and investing their time into their child’s sport. Financially youth sports put a huge toll on parents and children as well because of how much money a year parents tend to spend on their child’s sports. “A family bringing in $50,000 a year could be spending $5,500 per year” (Sullivan). This quote puts a pressure on the kid which is talked about in the Sullivan article, that when kids start to realize all the money that is being put into play. It starts to put a huge pressure on them for the reason that their parents are investing a bunch of money to into their sports and they feel the need to do good. They feel the need to have to do better because ultimately they may think as if they need to perform at a higher rate to please their parents and to make it worth having spent so much money on that sport or trip for a game. “Parents think these investments are justified; they think it will lead to a full ride to college” (Sullivan). What also came up with this article was the fact that there is about under five percent of kids that are in high school and play in college. The kids that are get school aid from these colleges reduces to three percent. This is very low and could create false hope for the parent and for the child because of the low percentage of people that meet in college. Another key aspect that has to do with sports and financial reasons is the fact that with most of these sports injuries are involved as well. When children play youth sports and especially contact sports, kids tend to get many injuries that they have to go to the doctor about. Many children and things alike that continue to run through these wounds that they may grow and hide from their parents because they may feel as if these injuries could in fact keep them back from being the best that they could possibly be in their particular sport.

This is a source that ties in my topic and my main source, “Organized Youth Sport and Parenting in Public and Private Spaces”. In this article the main purpose of this is to explain the instances where parents push their kids way too far and makes it not fun for them. Not only that, but it tells and shows instances where parents tend to put too much money directly into sports. On the pro side, it also explains how it teaches children basic skills in life as well.

Most researchers that would look at this topic would see many different scenarios to where the child is being pressured to play a role for their parents, and is forced to continue to play because their parents have invested a whole lot of time and money into whatever sport it may be. Then it becomes a point where it’s not necessarily fun for the child anymore to play which could become a problem because then it becomes a sport that a child is playing as more of a routine that is strictly because of their parents and not out of the love of the game.

This really stuck out to me, “a parent’s moral worth may be evaluated by their children’s successful participation in a sport.” (Trussell and Shaw 377). This is a main highlight to me because this was really surprising to me in the sense of there is a whole lot more than just your child’s participation and how successful they are in a sport. Because there are many other aspects of life that shape a person besides just a sport. They do not last forever everyone reaches a point where a sport comes to an end. If any child is struggling and is not the best one on a sports team, it would be best to work with him or her to make them better as long it is something that he or she wants to do. Forcing a child to do something that they do not want to do should be that last thing on parents’ minds when seeking to involve them in different activities.

Being a student athlete from me being here in The Valley as well as at Wake Forest, some of the craziest things that I have experienced and have witnessed from other student athletes since my time began here and previous school, attributes to the pressure put on them by their parents. Now this is with college students who are a little bit more controlled of their emotions, decision making, and knowing what is right from wrong. But the impact parental pressure has on certain individuals causes them to not to be able to do any of those things just mentioned. This is just with college students though. Questions arise from some of the decision making too much parental pressure leads to. What has this pressure been like their whole life? Does one know how to properly endure failure and what comes from it? What goals and dreams are you following? Your own? These are all questions that come from one of the biggest problems we see not only in sports but youth sports the most. The pressure that parents put on their kids and how it impacts them. Just like I have said earlier in this paper. It’s not all negative trust me, the pressure some parents put on their children is definitely needed but I feel like in today’s day and age the pressure has soared to new levels and for reasons that it shouldn’t. First, the infatuation with social media and comparing lives is where most of the problems of parental pressure begin. Second, the pressure it puts on the child actually does more harm than good. Kids begin to live up to expectations so high they don’t begin to appreciate the process. Lastly, it’s not all bad like I stated before. With proper and right parental influence kids can do and conquer so much. That pressure at times is needed so complacency isn’t born but there’s have to be a limit for your child’s over all well-being.

This is why I decided to call a couple of family and friends and completed four interviews with parents who have kids but also grew up playing sports. I asked a few different questions to gauge participant’s deepest responses, but the most important question I asked every person I interviewed was, “If you could go back in time what would you tell your parents to do differently when it came to your youth sports experience?” This where some of the most unique answers started to unfold and made me rethink a bunch of different things compared to when I began doing this research. It was an even split of 2-2(2 positive responses & 2 negative responses) when it came to the response to that question. People have different lives and experiences and that was shown through the interview process. 

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