Seventy-five percent of youth sports coaches say most parents place too much emphasis on their child winning games, highlighting the "win at all costs" culture among many sports parents, according to a new CoachUp survey. An even higher percentage of coaches—95 percent—say they've seen a parent yell at a referee during a game, setting an example of poor sportsmanship for their young athlete that will stay with them long after the game ends.
"The pressure on young athletes to play well has never been greater and parents often unwittingly make choices that value winning over the child's well-being," said Dr. Amy Baltzell, a Boston University sports psychology professor, former Olympic rower, youth coach and co-author of the sports parenting book, Whose Game Is It, Anyway? "Youth sports can be a wonderful way to teach life's lessons, strengthen the habit of physical activity and help children develop into confident, well-rounded adults, but parents can undermine these lessons by putting too much pressure on participation and performance or by behaving poorly (e.g. coaching, criticizing, yelling) from the sidelines."
The CoachUp survey also examined another growing trend: parents who sign their kids up in multiple sports per season, often because they fear their young athletes will fall behind their peers. More than half of coaches—55 percent—said to avoid sports "burnout," elementary school kids should play only one organized sport per season, the survey found.
"Youth sports are a great way to teach kids confidence, teamwork, sportsmanship and the value of trying your best," said Jordan Fliegel, CoachUp's president and founder. "As adults, parents and coaches, we can help young athletes learn to love sports in a positive, encouraging environment to prepare them to be the best they can be on the field and in life."
The CoachUp survey, which included responses from 261 youth sports coaches around the U.S., also found:
- Kids are better able to handle playing more than one sport per season as they age. 45 percent of coaches say it's OK for elementary school athletes to play multiple sports per season but that rises to 51 percent for high school athletes.
- 80 percent of coaches say the best way for a parent to help their child play better is not to give instructions during the game ("Shoot! Pass it!") but to offer encouragement ("Good job out there!").
- 19 percent say the best way for parents to help their child is to remain completely silent during games.
- 71 percent say fathers are most likely to be the "bad sports parent" who behaves poorly on the sideline during games.
- 74 percent of coaches say coaching their young athlete can strain a parent's relationship with their child.
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