Sport Psychology: Parents Receive Significant Benefits from Their Children's Participation in Sport

Sport Psychology:
Parents Receive Significant Benefits from Their Children's Participation in Sport

Dick Moss, Editor, PE

Do you have parents who sit in the stands during every practice and never miss a game? Do you wonder how they do it?

In fact, their attendance may not be the burden you think it is. A recent study has shown that parents may receive almost as many social benefits from their children's participation in team sports as the children themselves.

The Study
The study, conducted at Purdue University, examined 26 parents of children aged 6-15 who were involved in organized basketball, baseball soccer or softball.

The researchers, using focus-group interviews, found that parents benefited in several ways, including: improved time management skills; better spousal communication because of the need to coordinate driving schedules; and better child-parent relationships, because sport gave them something in common to talk about.

In many cases, having a child involved in a sport motivated the parent to take up the sport as well.

Perhaps the most strongly-cited benefit was social interaction with other parents. For many, attendance at children's' sports events became “playdates” in which meeting other adults was easy because they had something in common with which to initiate conversation.

While making friends wasn't a surprising benefit for parents, researchers were surprised by the intensity of the relationships that developed. Many friendships were maintained long after their children's sport participation had ended. And others experienced a feeling of emotional loss after their time as sports parents was over.

So, don't think that parents who stay at practice and help out as volunteers are doing you a big favor. In fact, the pleasure may be all theirs.


Reference: Travis E. Dorsch, Alan L. Smith and Meghan H. McDonough, “Parents' Perceptions of Child-to-Parent Socialization in Organized Youth Sport.” Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, Human Kinetics, Inc., 2009, 31, 444-468.

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© 2010, Physical Education,

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