While the experience of anger in youth sport is not new (the Rutgers Youth Sport Research Council has an excellent article on-line documenting adult violence at youth sporting events occurring 25 years ago), there are factors that make the matter more volatile today. One of the major concerns is when parents begin seeing their child’s sport participation as an “investment.” Rather than encouraging a child to play for fun and to learn life skills such as teamwork, leadership and discipline, sport participation is viewed as a way to get a scholarship or a big paycheck as a professional athlete. Too often this can lead to thinking in terms of “ownership” of the athlete and wanting to protect the investment, rather than pride in your child.
It is natural for a parent to want his or her child to play well and perform at their peak ability; however there are times that this goes overboard. Over-emphasis on winning and “being a good investment” easily leads to burnout of many talented young athletes. One of the antidotes of burnout is to make certain that the young athlete has an identity beyond sport. The challenge is to broaden the yardstick by which success is measured. If the sole yardstick is “winning,” “showcasing talent” or “scholarship offers,” a parent may be short-changing their child. If the yardstick is broadened to include relationships with others, relationship with self (understanding oneself and one’s emotions), and relationship with a higher power (e.g., God, not a Division I coach), then a parent can make decisions (and behave) in a manner that prepares the youth for true success in life. Has a parent really been successful if he or she has a child that earns a scholarship, but is miserable, has no friends, and doesn’t have a clue how to sustain relationships?