Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Some resources for parents (and coaches) of young athletes, building on the parent seminar at the Training Day over the weekend:

For a quick summary of the basics, it's hard to beat USA Swimming's 10 Commandements for Swimming Parents.

For an excellent resource with more depth, download a copy of A Sport Guide for Parents, co-authored by former Triathlon Canada High Performance Director, and Beijing Olympic Team Leader, Dr. Tom Patrick.

Finally, I recommend that everyone read Fun and Games? Myths surrounding the role of youth sports in developing Olympic champions. This is a peer reviewed article, and a nice summary of the relevant research in the area. Usually, only the abstract is available, but the link above will lead you to the whole article. I suggest printing it or saving an electronic copy, as it's usually only available with a MEDLINE account, or by ordering it (price range $5 to $30) through a university library.

Some selected paragraphs from the article (emphasis added):

Not surprisingly, parents and families were perceived to play a critical role in the talent development process. Specifically, parents were very committed to their child and did such things as modelled an active lifestyle, exposed their child to different sports, transported their child, paid for lessons and equipment, attended games and practices, and provided considerable encouragement and unconditional support. While families clearly supported and encouraged participation, in most cases they exerted little pressure to win. Families also emphasised an optimistic belief in the young athletes' ability to succeed or a "can do" attitude.

Families also modelled hard work and discipline, a finding consistent with research by Bloom (1985), who showed that parents of highly successful individuals espoused or modelled values related to achievement such as hard work, success, being active and persistence. At the same time, parents emphasised the notion, "if you are going to do it, do it right". They also held high yet realistic expectations and standards for their children, and "stick to it" and "follow-through on commitments" attitudes.

Finally, in the early phase of these athletes' careers, the majority of the parents did not have winning or the Olympic Games as an objective of participation. Instead, they focused on their children's overall happiness, a balance of fun and development, and the general developmental benefits of sport involvement. While there was some emphasis on winning and success, these were not the predominant objectives of participation. At the same time, parents emphasised working hard, having a positive attitude and discipline. Throughout the middle and elite phases of the athletes' careers, many parents also played an important role in helping keep winning and success in perspective. Parents' roles also changed over time (from leader to follower over three phases), which supports the research of Cote (1999).

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