Study: Parents’ sideline behavior greatly impacts young athletes

April 16, 2024 / Athletic AdministrationCoaching
If you’re a parent chauffeuring kids around to their various athletic practices, games, or lessons, you should be mindful of your behavior from the sidelines or bleachers.

A new study, entitled “Monkey see, monkey do? Exploring parent-athlete behaviors from youth athletes’ perspective,” researched how parental advice can affect a young athlete’s desire to participate in athletics.

A recent study surveyed 67 teenage athletes to find out how their parents’ sideline behavior influences their play.

A recent story from Good To Know, a parenting blog, summarized the findings of the study. Below is an excerpt from the Good To Know story.

The Australian pilot study surveyed 67 teenagers who play team sports and also have parents watching from the sidelines. The research aimed to find out how a parent’s behavior influences their playing and there were three very important factors highlighted by their answers.

  1. Starting with a positive, the study found that if parents were being positive on the sidelines, such as cheering for the team, encouraging their child and their teammates as they played, and helping out if a team member fell over or was hurt, the child will, in turn, behave better towards both their teammates and opponents.
  2. However, the inverse is also true. If a parent chose to use negative sideline behaviors by yelling at their child if they messed up, by swearing or shouting put-downs and getting annoyed, or by reacting badly to referee or coach feedback, their child was more likely to be aggressive and angry while playing.
  3. A parent’s behavior can also influence how much a child enjoys a sport and whether they want to quit, with negative parental behaviour leading a child to get less enjoyment out of a sport and want to quit. (Although, a lot of factors can influence a child’s decision to quit a hobby and, thankfully, a parenting expert has recently revealed how to know when quitting is ok and when to encourage a child to stick it out).

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The study found that certain words of encouragement may seem helpful and supportive but can also be controlling. Terms like ‘c’mon, shoot’, ‘watch the ball’ or ‘kick it harder’ can affect the child’s playing as the pressure from parents suggests winning is the most important thing and, especially by shouting them out in front of the other parents and the child’s teammates, can undermine the child’s confidence in their own abilities.

To read the full story from Good To Know, click here.