Delving into parent sport engagement

With South Australian families concerned about inappropriate conduct at junior sport events, new research will tackle the reasons behind poor parental behaviour and unreasonable pressures placed on children to win, as part of a project exploring wider parent engagement in youth sport.

Supported by the Office for Recreation, Sport and Racing, researchers will for the first time help establish protocols which improve how community sport clubs engage parents to optimise positive behaviour and maximise involvement in their children’s activities.

The community study will include extensive focus groups, individual interviews and field observations, as well as immersion in community sport settings.

Project Lead Dr Sam Elliott, from the Centre for Sport, Health, Activity, Performance and Exercise Research (SHAPE) at Flinders University says the aim of the project is to explore how organised youth sports engage parents across the their journey, to develop protocols for enhancing engagement practices, while assessing the feasibility of current protocols with key stakeholders.

“Parents can represent a risk to youth sport by exerting pressure on children to win, holding unrealistic expectations, engaging in conflicting behaviour with coaches and verbally abusing other child participants.”

“This will be the first international study of its kind and will generate knowledge for improving parental involvement in youth sport and will help develop policy understandings of youth sport and parenting.”

“The research will place Australia at the forefront of practice in maximising participation through enhancing the quality of parental involvement.”

Dr Sam Elliott previously found that well meaning parents were putting their children under too much pressure.

The outcomes of this research aim to:

  • Influence the way in which clubs and coaches initiate and maintain communications with parents and volunteers in youth sport.
  • Provide evidence for the importance of enhancing parental involvement in improving health-related outcomes associated with long-term sports participation.
  • Provide legitimate evidence of track record with industry for future ARC linkage projects designed to improve youth sport outcomes.

Minister for Recreation, Sport and Racing Corey Wingard says it’s important to look into why this type of behaviour is occurring and come up with appropriate ways to address it.

“Sadly there is a minority in our community that are tarnishing children’s sport with bad behaviour and irresponsible actions on the sidelines.

“I look forward to seeing the outcome of this important study supported by the Office for Recreation, Sport and Racing.

“We should be doing everything we can to encourage participation in sport and creating a safe environment in which our kids can be active.”

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College of Education, Psychology and Social Work Research