Athlete Parent and Stress

Parents whose children participate in organized sports can experience stress in many ways. Parents face daily stressors related to their children (such as preparing the child for school, organizing the child’s out-of-school time and activities, completing homework, maintaining discipline). Such stressors affect the parent’s behavior and thus the parent-child relationship (Knight, Holt & Tammien, 2009).

Economic stressors are again very important and can affect the parent’s behavior towards the child. For example; Parents with financial difficulties may act more controlling or indifferent towards their children. On the other hand, time constraints can also be a stress factor for parents. Parents who have responsibilities in both parenting, social life and work life may feel stuck and inadequate in the face of all these duties and expectations. However, parents may also feel tired, guilty or angry (Dorsch, Smith & McDonough, 2014).

In a recent study, 123 parents of junior tennis players in England were surveyed to investigate the stress experienced by parents whose children participate in sports (Harwood & Knight, 2009). Parents noted seven types of stressors; participation in competitive matches and tournaments, the behavior and responsibilities of coaches, financial concerns, time constraints, sibling jealousy and equality of attention, inequalities in tennis organizations and developmental concerns about tennis education and future tennis career. In other words, we can divide it into three as competitive stressors, organizational stressors and developmental stressors. The study shows that parents are affected by the stress their children experience during sports.

Kirk et al. (1997) surveyed Australian parents and evaluated the economic costs and consequences of their children’s participation in sport. Parents look at these costs as an investment and think that if their child is successful, they will earn it back because success in sports corresponds to a scholarship at the university. The reason parents put pressure on their children to be successful in sports is that they see this success as a reward for their financial and emotional investment. In a recent study, the relationship between the family’s financial investment in sports and the perceived parental pressure, enjoyment of sports and commitment to sports were evaluated (Dunn, Dorsch, King & Rothlisberger, 2016). 163 parent-child pairs participated in the study conducted in the USA. Participating children continue to participate actively in various sports; American football, baseball, soccer, volleyball, wrestling, tennis, swimming, wrestling, and gymnastics. The results show that the family’s financial investment predicts the child’s commitment to sports by mediating perceived parental pressure and enjoyment from sports. In other words, families who invest more in their child’s participation in sports exhibit higher levels of parental pressure. This situation causes the child to enjoy sports less and feel less committed to continue sports.

Socializing with Sports

The participation of young people in sports is increasing gradually, and together with it, active participation of parents in the organized sports life of young people is ensured. At this point, the concept of socialization of parents with sports is formed. This socialization process also leads to some cognitive, emotional and relational changes in the parent. Parents may show some behavioral changes personally with their children’s participation in sports. For example; such as attending more sports events, watching more sports on television. At the same time, another change can take place in the cognitive domain. Parents become more interested in sports, they begin to understand the rules of the sport better and realize the strategies. Emotional changes can be observed as positive (such as being proud, enjoying, having fun) or negative (such as stress, anxiety, disappointment). As a result, it is seen that the parents who participate in the sports life of the child or young person also have changes and developments in their personal planes.

Dorsch et al. (2014) examined the socialization process with sports experienced by parents whose children participated in sports for the first time, and how this process shaped family relationships and parenting practices. In this study, four families were followed for fifteen months. During the study, semi-structured interviews, parent diaries and one-to-one observations with parents of children and coaches were evaluated. The results of the study found that the youth’s participation in sports provides new opportunities in terms of family interaction and shapes the communication of the family. With these changes, parents have become more involved in the youth’s sports life, both behaviorally and emotionally, and have started to use sports as a means to teach their children life lessons. Through this repetitive social interaction, parents have been able to adopt their new roles in the organized sports environment and continue their own development as parents.

The role of the parent in the athlete’s ability development process is changing. It is thought that young people go through three stages in their participation in sports; selection, privatization and investment stages. In the first stage, the child participates in various sports activities and having fun is the most important goal. At this stage, the role of the parent is to support the development of the child, to direct the family’s time to sports, to help the child with transportation and other needs. In the second stage, the child begins to specialize in a sport and improves his skills by repeating the practices specific to this sport. The role of the parent at this stage is to offer more financial and time opportunities and to provide emotional moral support to the child on a regular basis. In the third stage, the child’s goal is to reach an elite level in the sport he chooses. At this stage, the parent remains an important emotional resource. However, the direct influence of the parent on the child’s sports career has decreased, and at this point, highly trained coaches contribute more to the child than the parent can give.

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