For many of the millions of youths participating in sports around the nation, their biggest fans are parents.
But studies have found both kids and parents aren't always proud of how mom or dad behaves on the sidelines. Some of the more extreme parents have landed in jail for tripping opposing team players or mailing death threats to a child's coach.
According to data collected by Statistic Brain in 2013, 37 percent of youth sports participants wished they could play without parents watching. And an i9 Sports survey in 2012 found that same view among 31 percent of the kids it polled.
"They said mostly because adults yell too much, are too distracting, make players nervous and put pressure on them to play better and win," i9 Sports reported.
The same survey found 84 percent said they had at some point quit a team or wished to quit because it wasn't fun anymore, teammates were mean and the sport took away too much time from other activities.
As for the parents, according to an article in the Journal of Research in Character Education from 2005, 100 percent of moms and dads polled reported that they had at least once or twice acted like a bad sport after a game. Eighty-four percent admitted to feeling guilty at least once or twice for the way they had behaved at a youth sports event, according to the study.
Involvement in a child's sport requires balance, according to EducatedSportsParent.com — not too much and not too little.
"However, what appears to be the most significant finding is that it may not actually be what you do that affects your child’s experience. Rather what appears to be important is how your child perceives what you do," according to the article.
Money can also influence parental behavior in youth sports. According to a recent Deseret News article, a Utah State University study found that youths whose parents spend more money on their sporting events and equipment tend to not enjoy competing as much.
"It wasn't necessarily about spending more, but it was those families where parents exhibited more forms of parental pressure seeing their kids' sport as a commodity," assistant professor Travis Dorsch told the News. "They put the money in and they expect something out of it, and that's where those pressure behaviors were coming in."
Jim Taylor, an adjunct psychology professor at the University of San Francisco, wrote in the Huffington Post about the importance of stressing process over results when talking to a child about sports and competition.
"Parents, good or bad competition, give your children a hug, tell them you love them, and ask them if they're hungry," he wrote. "If you're too excited about a good performance or too disappointed in a bad one, stay the heck away from your children because they will sense your emotions no matter how hard you try to mask them."
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