youth sports; Parents Place too Much Pressure on Kids



Youth sports is considered as one of the most beneficial leisure activity for children as it has been proven to have significant psychological, physical, as well as, social development benefits for children. Additionally, youth sport has also been linked with the improvement of health and welfare for the children who chose to get involved in these sports activities ( 1). The number of children taking part in sports activities has been on a record high, as more and more children engage in sports during their time in school. In 1990, an American Athletic Footwear Association conducted a survey involving 20,000 children who actively took part in sports activities in their respective schools ( 3). This survey was aimed at finding out why these children participate in sports. The results from this survey illustrated that the top three reasons as to why children engage in sports was to have fun, to improve their sporting talent and skills, and to exercise ( 3).

A similar poll carried out by USA today and NBC in the same year found that most kids engaging is sports did not care whether they won or lost, and they also wished that parents would be excluded from their sports matches. These results then draw attention to the participation of children in youth sports, and why most children, who were initially enthusiastic about sports, soon lost interest in their respective sports activities. The past ten years have seen a gradual decrease in the number of children engaging in sports in America, thus generating plenty of debate regarding the causes of this.

On a bid to find out there was an increase in the number of children quitting sports, the Youth Sports Institute at Michigan State surveyed over 10,000 kids to find this out. The results from their study illustrated that the top three reasons as losing interest, lack of fun and too much pressure from parents and their coaches ( 2). The latter has been cited as the greatest reason why children disengaged themselves from sports. Currently, researchers in the field have worked on proving the parent’s role in the decrease in the number of children engaging in sports. Accordingly, research studies have pointed out parents place too much pressure on their children to engage in youth sports, thus de-motivating these children from sporting activities. Sequentially, this has generated plenty of debate among social and academic circles, as the proposers and opposers seek to prove whether parents place too much pressure on their children in youth sports.

This paper argues that parents place too much pressure on kids in youth sports. Specifically the paper will argue out this notion from three main perspectives including competition, self-esteem, and the exaggerated opinions. The paper will also examine the opposing view that parents do not place too much pressure on kids in youth sports utilizing the concepts of talent in support of this. The paper concludes by providing an evaluation claim regarding the subject matter.

Parents Place too Much Pressure on Kids in Youth Sports

An estimated 40 million children in America take part in youth sports. Sequentially these children are said to have garnered plenty of support not only from their coaches and friends, but also from their parents ( 1). Parental support in sport activities is a good thing as it is a way of encouraging children in their sports activities. However, this parental support has often been overdone and most of the times, parents end up pressuring their children instead of supporting them in their sports activities (Hellstedt 135-144). Pressure, in this case refers to the state of urgency and worry, which parents impose on their children as they urge them to perform in sporting activities. Research studies explain that in the bid to show support their children, parents often fail to realize that the child needs to have their freedom in participating in their respective sporting activity. This, in turn, has plenty of negative connotations, as it affects the child both psychologically and socially. As psychologists explain, parental pressure with regards to engagement in youth sport may cause psychological stress, physical stress, and in some cases, physical injury (Hellstedt 135-144). Psychological stress is defined as an individual’s failure to respond positively to the emotional and cognitive demands.

kind of stress arises when a person is unable to cope with the challenges that they face, which sequentially affects their mental state. When parents pressure their children in youth sports, they, in one way or another, cause psychological stress for their children. Physical stress has also been identified as one of the consequences of parental pressure and it refers to the failure to of proper physical response when faced with a challenge. In relation to parental pressure in sports, physical stress can manifest itself when a child becomes physically unable to perform during sports (Hellstedt 135-144). Accordingly, with such evidence, research studies have proved the negative effects of parental pressure in youth sports. Though most parents are well aware of the pressure they put on their children during youth sports, most of them do not realize when this pressure. This is because most parents cannot identify the difference between positive support and negative pressure. Accordingly, researchers in the field have explained three ways in which parents have pressured their children in youth sports including placing more emphasis on winning, encouraging competition and having overinflated opinions regarding their children’s sports abilities and skills.

Emphasis on Winning

In the course of giving support and showing sportsmanship, most parents find themselves teaching their children how to win and beat others at the game instead of placing emphasis on having fun. According to Hellstedt parents often fail to realize that the number one reason their children take up sporting activities is for enjoyment and fun. Instead of encouraging their children to focus on having fun during their sport, they encourage them to win at all costs, thus beating the logic of sportsmanship (Hellstedt 135-144).


Another way in which parents put pressure on their children in youth sports is through the over emphasis on the need for competition. Accordingly, Hellstedt explains that a little competitive spirit is good for the encouragement of children to participate and be the best in sports. However, most parents inevitable find themselves overdoing their encouragement for competitive spirit, thus causing pressure on their children, as they feel that they need to be in a constant mode of competition with other children (Hellstedt 135-144). This is turn causes stress for children especially if they fail to be the best at what they do, thus affecting their overall self-esteem.

Overinflated Opinions

Another way in which parents have been identified as putting too much pressure on children in youth sports is through their overinflated opinions regarding their children’s abilities. Having opinion and showing concern over how their children are performing both at home and in school is an essential part of good parenthood. However, as Hellstedt explains, parents have a tendency to over look the actual abilities and talents of their children, putting them on a pedestal that the children may or may not have the ability to live up to (Hellstedt 135-144). This, in turn, puts stress children as they struggle to live up to their parents opinion of themselves.


Counter Arguments: Parents do not Pressure Children in Youth Sports

The debate on whether or not parents put pressure on their children in youth sports also contains a variety of opposing arguments with regards to this issue. For that reason, researchers and academicians have also focused their studies on proving that parents do not put pressure on their children in youth sports (Yusuff 36-42). Instead, these arguments state that parents are the best motivation for children engaging in youth sports.


In his argument regarding the absence of parental pressure from youth sports, Yusuff argues that parents do not pressure their children in youth sports. He explains that human beings have inherent talent and skills that need to be cultivated, and because children may not be capable of recognizing these talents, parents need to give them a push (Yusuff 36-42). With this argument, children are considered as individuals who cannot make proper decisions on their own, and for that reason, need the assistance of their parents to make this decision. Without the assistance of their parents, children cannot fully build on their talents and abilities.


Yusuff also argues that parents are motivations to their children as they assist them to focus on the sporting activities with minimal outside distraction. Children often lose focus from almost all their activities because of their inability to prioritize things in their life. The role of the parent is, therefore, to ensure that the child maintains his or her focus in the chosen sporting activity (Yusuff 36-42). The absence of parental guidance, more often than not, results in an increase of drop-outs from sports and other school activities.


Evaluative Claim

A closer examination on the role of a parent in a child’s sporting experience reveals that the involvement of parents in a child’s sport is crucial for the success of the child in the sport. The roles of the parent may range from coaching to something as simple as driving their child to the game. The debate regarding parental pressure on their children in youth sport draws attention to an issue that has affected many potential athletes today. Both sides of the argument present well-defined, solid cases but it is apparent that the argument supporting parental pressure in youth sport gives a better case. Unmistakably, Yusuff presents a good argument by explaining that parents act as motivation for their children in sports by nurturing talent and ensuring focus. However, this argument fails to recognize the tendency of parents to overdo and over engage in their children’s lives let alone sporting activities.

Any parent today would confirm that they have a strong emotional attachment to their children, and for that reason, they work to ensure that their children are at their best at all times.  However, in their course of aiming and working for the best in their children, they tend to overlook the needs of the child, hence putting too much pressure on their children. Hellstedt’s argument sequentially succeeds at explaining hoe parents pressure their children in youth sports. Her argument is realistic as it explains the different ways in which parents pressure their children in sports. Hellstedt begins by acknowledging that parents may or may not be aware of the pressure they give to their children in youth sports thus illustrating that parental pressure doe truly exist. Parents need to realize their role in their children’s sporting experience so as to reduce the possibility of imposing unnecessary pressure on their children. They also need to realize that sports is an activity that a child engages in with their own free will and they should not pressure their children into engaging in sport. Most importantly, parents need to realize that children engage in sports for various reasons. Each, parent should, therefore respect this and encourage their children into sports instead of putting pressure on them.



Research studies have shown that the involvement parents in a child’s sports experience can affect the outcome of their sporting experience. Parents provide a source of motivation for their children by encouraging them to work towards a particular goal. For that reason, there is need for parents to realize this role and to avoid over exploiting their roles as parents, hence putting pressure on children. Parents should, therefore, focus on encouraging children positively, as opposed to, giving them negative encouragement and pressure. This is necessary to ensure that children engaging in sports do not suffer from physical and psychological stress brought about by parental pressure.









Work Cited

Center for Kids FIRST in Sports. “Organized Youth Sports Today: Troubling Signals from

Youth Sports”. web. 15 December, 2011. PDF file.

Hellstedt, J. C. Early Adolescent Perceptions of Parental Pressure in the Sport Environment.

Journal of Sport Behavior, 13(1990): 135-144.

Yusuff, K.B. (1991). Parental Influence Perceived as Motivational Agent in Competitive Sports

Among Selected Elite Male Athletes. Journal of Behavior, 15(1991): 36-42.



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