Parent behaviors in the youth sport setting have a lasting impact on children. For instance, when children observe a parent yelling at an official, coach, teammate, or opponent, they may model that behavior in future situations. In light of this, there are two questions researchers are focused on answering about parents of young athletes in organized youth sport:
1. What makes sport a unique context for parenting?

Importantly, sport (unlike school and other achievement domains) occurs in a public setting. As a result, your children’s outcomes — and your reactions to those outcomes — are seen by everyone!

2. What does “appropriate” parent involvement look like?

Although there is no universal answer, the quality of interactions between parents and children appears to be just as - if not more - important than the quantity.

Parent communication is the most common form of sideline behavior in youth sport. Importantly, these interactions have the potential to be harmful and hurtful, or to engender feelings of confidence and support in young athletes! This is because what parents say, and how they say it, communicates their views about the value of winning and losing, expectations regarding success, and perceptions of children’s competence.

What Children want from Parents in Youth Sport

What Children Don't Want From Parents What Children Do Want From Parents
Before Competition
  • Comments focused on child’s performance
  • Communicating expectations about winning
  • Tactical advice with no knowledge
  • Helping athlete be physically prepared
  • Attend to child’s needs for mental preparation
During Competition
  • Intimidation towards opponents
  • Drawing attention towards themselves
  • Criticizing/coaching child or team
  • Disputes with officials, coaches, or parents
  • Contradicting coach instructions
  • Repeating instructions
  • Booing opposing team
  • Etiquette and compliance with guidelines
  • Positive tone and body language
  • Control over emotions
  • Praising good performance
  • Encouragement after poor execution
After Competition
  • Criticism of performance
  • Blaming outcomes on referee or others
  • Focusing on negatives of performance
  • Positive feedback on effort and attitude
  • Realistic feedback
  • Give feedback when child is ready for it