Psychologists agree that parents, above all other relationships, have the most important and powerful influence on the development of children aged 0 -12 years.

When it comes to sport, this is no different. While your child’s coaches will play a critical part in their development, your own actions as a parent will also have a profound impact on their development in and through sport.

Since the beginning of Good Sports, we have been heartened by the love shown by parents for their children. Without question, the thousands of parents that we have talked to, have had the best and greatest of intentions for their children’s development (physically, psychologically and socially). But we have also talked to many parents that have recognized that despite their best intentions for being a positive influence on their child, they harm their intentions through their actions.

Why is this?

Have you ever asked yourself, what does a positive youth sport environment look like? What do kids want out of sport? Why do children play sport? Unfortunately, we know that many parents, coaches and sport administrators haven’t stopped to ponder these questions. Subsequently, default behaviors and actions of adults are informed not by what suits children, but often what suits the business of sport. As Reed Maltbie from Changing the Game Project puts it,“it’s because youth sports and physical movement education have become, in far too many cases, more about the needs of the business of sport than the needs of the child in sport.”

If you want to know more about how the business of sport is compromising children’s experiences in sport, we recommend watching the documentary The Cost of Winning.

In this busy world, we have found that parents have the least time to critically reflect on what good support for children in sport looks like. Unfortunately, this means that parents are susceptible to following the default positions set and displayed (consciously and subconsciously) by administrators and coaches in children’s sport.

When it comes to parents, broadly speaking, the actions that we see can be put into two categories:

1) Underpinned by a Climate of Development, where adults:

  • define success by effort and improvement;
  • include everyone so they feel they matter;
  • share control with children;
  • design training and competitions using a learning-through-play approach;
  • and support to try a variety of experiences (sports, positions, etc).

2) Underpinned by Climate of Performance, where adults:

  • define success by winning & losing;
  • focus only on the best players;
  • exert strict control;
  • design training and competitions for performance;
  • and encourage early specialization.

While many of the intentions of parents can be placed under the Climate of Development, often their actions will fall under the Climate of Performance.

To find out more about the Climate of Development and Climate of Performance, read about the Good Sports Spine.

So, what are some simple things that parents can do? Read the following from Believe Perform on The Parental Role in Developing Young Athletes.

Once finished ask yourself – do I currently promote an environment where my child has the tools to succeed and cope with pressure?

Don’t know what this environment looks like? Read How to Help Your Child Fall in Love With Sport.