Expert advice for parents of children who participate in sports

Does your child participate in sports? If so, you’re a “sport parent” and you’ve probably already seen those outrageous YouTube videos of parents behaving badly at youth sporting events. The Yellowbrick.me community wants to know more about the science behind sport parenting and so we interviewed two experts in this area — Chris Harwood, PhD and Camilla Knight, PhD – who were happy to teach us a little about the subject.

Dr. Harwood is a Reader in Applied Sport Psychology at Loughborough University in the United Kingdom. Dr. Knight is a Lecturer at Swansea University — in their College of Engineering. The two collaborators recently published a much needed literature review and position paper on the topic of sport parenting expertise. So what exactly is sport parenting expertise? Harwood and Knight see it as:

“A set of skills and experiences that enable parents to optimise, not only their child’s youth sport experience, but also their own sport experience. These skills relate to our six key areas:

1) that parents are skilled enough to select the right or correct opportunities for their child in sport. This means listening to and understanding the child’s goals and wants out of sport (as opposed to parent’s goals) so that the level and nature of opportunity meets their child’s needs (as opposed to parent’s needs!);

2) that parents operate a parenting style that is supportive, responsive, but with clear rationales and boundaries provided;

3) that parents take time to appreciate the emotional demands that will be placed on them in sport, and armed with this awareness, manage (and practice managing) their emotions before, during and after events;

4) that parents make an effort interpersonally with others – and hopefully foster healthy relationships (sometimes social relations) with others. This includes good relations with officials and coaches – which often means using the skills in point 3 – good emotional control!

5) that parents appreciate that there may be financial, organisational, family-related challenges and developmental issues as part and parcel of the sport journey, and they need good communication, negotiation, acceptance and planning skills for this; and finally

6) that parents’ involvement and support roles with their child will evolve and change over time and that they need to be ready unconditionally in terms of what their child needs them to be…..and this simply might be a ‘safe haven of support’ to return home to as opposed to parents being consistently involved. Again, this requires the parent to be astute and considerate of their child’s needs. We do not believe there is a one size of expert sport parent, and the range of skills may vary with different sports and the way they are organised. However, we believe that parents will help themselves and their child to enjoy sport more if they consider these six areas.”

If everyone followed this parenting advice, perhaps those horrible meltdown videos will be a thing of the past. Yellowbrick.me applauds Harwood and Knight for conducting research that fits our mission and vision. Want to read the full publication? It is obtained here. Unfortunately, Open Access is not yet available.

If you have any parenting tips of your own, please share your expertise with the Yellowbrick.me community.

Harwood

Photo by woodleywonderworks licensed under CC0 2.0

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