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The Parental Influence on Children Playing Sports

by Erica Loop, studioD

From Pee Wee soccer for preschoolers to Little League for teens, an endless stream of possibilities exist when it come to youth sports. Don't think that the only influence on your child while playing sports is his coach or instructor. Whether it is positive or negative, parents have a major effect on their children playing sports.


Parents influence their sports-playing children by providing encouragement. According to educational experts at the University of Illinois, encouraging kids to have fun, learn the basics and make new friends are all beneficial effects of parental influence on childhood sports play. For example, a parent who encourages her child to focus on having a ball on the soccer field instead of emphasizing the need to win will provide a positively encouraging environment. This can foster enjoyment and enthusiasm for the sport.


Whether they are positive or negative, parental expectations for youth sports have a influence on children. The American Academy of Pediatrics's Healthy Children website notes that adults who set unrealistic expectations for children playing sports can make a child's athletic experience unhealthful. This can include the situation where the child feels like a failure if she can't meet lofty adult expectations for performance. However, parents who set realistic expectations, based on the child's age and developmental level, can help their child feel pride and success in her accomplishments.


Parents are role models for their children at sports games and athletic practices. Modeling appropriate behaviors can make the difference between him treating his coach, team and the referee with respect or being a poor sport. For example, if you feel the referee is incompetent, don't show your anger, yell or shout. Instead, calmly ask to speak to the referee, or the coach, and explain to your child that sometimes people have different opinions. Modeling positive behaviors can also take the form of being a good loser. Congratulate the other team members and coach whether your child's team wins or loses. This will help him to understand the importance of good sportsmanship.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 2.6 million kids visit emergency departments every year because of sports-related injuries. Parents can positively influence kids when it comes to sports safety by openly discussing proper equipment use and the consequences for engaging in risky athletic actions such as overly aggressive play. Additionally, you can also show your child how to keep safe while playing sports by keeping yourself safe. For example, if you go on a family bike outing, wear your helmet and follow the rules of the road.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.

Photo Credits

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