Helping Parents be Better Youth Sport Coaches and Spectators


  • Peter A. Witt Texas A&M University
  • Tek B. Dangi



Parent-coaches, parent-spectators, youth sports


Parents are often involved in their children’s youth sports experiences, sometimes as coaches, more often as spectators. In both roles, parents can make an important difference in their child’s experience and the developmental outcomes associated with youth sports participation. The positives and negatives of parents as coaches and spectators are reviewed in this paper. Youth sports experts have identified a number of benefits/advantages of parents serving as coaches for their own children, including parents knowing their children better than anyone else, thus being able to do what is necessary to meet their needs; parents being in a good position to deal with their child’s mood swings and reactions to certain situations; and parent-coaches being able to create shared experiences and memories with their child. Disadvantages of parents coaching their own children include parents becoming over-involved and children feeling that it is the parent, not them making the decision that they should play sports. In addition, children may become frustrated with their parent’s coaching tactics or team members may perceive that the coach’s child is receiving preferential treatment, which could be harmful to relationships the child has with teammates. Parents can also spend a lot of time watching their children participate and being cheerleaders and supporters. Unfortunately, parents can become overly involved in their children’s sports activities and end up becoming vocal critics of their children’s play, and the actions of coaches, referees, other parents and other players. There can also be a gap between the actual behavior of parents and the behavior children would prefer to see from their parents, which suggests the need to find ways to improve parent-spectator behavior. While many parents act in a healthy and responsible manner as spectators, negative parental actions can lead to youth abandoning sport involvements. Some parents lose perspective of sports as a fun and healthy activity and start seeing their young athlete as an investment and a means of achieving fame, glory or material rewards. Several initiatives have been taken to make parental participation as spectators more rewarding for children and parents, as well as for coaches, referees/umpires, and fellow spectators. Youth professionals can use this information to work with parents to facilitate better experiences for their children.Subscribe to JPRA

Author Biography

Peter A. Witt, Texas A&M University

Emeritus PofessorDepartment of Recreation, Park and Tourism SciencesTexas A&M University