YOUTH SPORT:Distress and anxiety, Coach-Parent Relationships

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Sport Psychology (PSY407)
When people think of applied sport psychology, they usually think of elite athletes and how to improve
athletic performance. This is certainly the focus of sport psychology, however, when you consider that
there are millions of children between the ages of six and eighteen, you see the tremendous potential
for human enrichment and development. If every child who participated in sport emerged with
increased self-confidence, greater perceived ability, increased intrinsic motivation, and greater self-
esteem, the world and society would certainly be better for it. Unfortunately, many youth who would
like to participate in organized sport programs are unable to do so because of limited resources. This
lecture is dedicated to the important topic of youth sport. We will be looking at the benefits of youth
sports, reasons children participate or withdraw from sports, potential negative factors associated with
the youth sport experience, training volunteer coaches in developed countries, and the coach-parent
Youth sport programs can be classified into two categories; school-sponsored programs, and nonschool
programs. School sponsored programs operate at schools and generally they have the luxury of
dedicated facilities and qualified coaches, although this is not always the case. Nonschool youth sport
programs operate in quite a different way. These programs are usually run by agencies and city
recreation departments. Nonschool programs usually do not have dedicated places for practice and uses
volunteers as coaches. Typically, an adult volunteer is assigned to supervise and to coach a team. Love
for sport, of course is the primary motivation of the adult to volunteer to spend hundreds of hours of
his free time coaching children. We will be discussing youth sport as a whole, covering both types of
youth sport programs.
Benefits of Youth Sports and Reasons Why Children Participate
Studies show that the number one reason children give for participating in youth sports is "to have
fun." When it isn't fun any more, the young athletes will find something else to do. Based on numerous
investigations, following motives for participation have been identified by youth sports participants:
The motive to have fun and to enjoy participating in sport.
The motive to learn new skills and to improve on existing sports skills.
The motive to become physically fit and to enjoy good health.
The motive to enjoy the challenge and excitement of sports participation and competition.
The motive to enjoy a team atmosphere and to be with friends.
This list also represents some of the perceived benefits of youth sport participation. The benefits of
youth sport participation include having fun, learning new sports skills, getting physically fit,
experiencing the excitement of competition, and making new friends. Other intangible benefits include
things like learning to cooperate with teammates and coaches, learning what it means to be a good
sportsperson, and developing a sense of perceived competence and self-efficacy. A positive youth
sports experience will enhance intrinsic motivation, which will in turn lead to continued participation in
sports throughout a lifetime.
Potential Negative Factors Associated With the Youth Sports Experience
If youth sports are not organized and supervised by responsible adults, there may be some negative
consequences of youth sport participation. The potential negative consequences of youth sport
participation are:
Sport Psychology (PSY407)
Too much competition and focus upon winning.
Competition gives the youth sport participants an opportunity to put all of their training and hard work to the
test. The problem arises when winning becomes so important that it becomes the sole purpose of competition.
When winning becomes that important, it forces an external locus of control, and the athlete's sense of self-
determination and autonomy is diminished, as is intrinsic motivation.
Distress and anxiety
Too much emphasis upon competition and winning leads to increased levels of distress and anxiety. These
terms are related to a child's fear of failure and worry about disappointing others. You simply cannot enjoy
playing a cricket game if you are fearful every time it is your turn to bat or are worrying that the ball might be hit
to you when you are in the field. The FLOW experience should be kept in mind, and the focus should be
towards enjoying the experience. You cannot experience FLOW if your focus is upon winning. Your focus must
be on the experience itself and not upon outcome. The FLOW experience and feelings of anxiety and distress
are incongruent with each other.
Violence and aggression among adults
Another negative factor associated with youth sport is violence and aggression among adults. According to
some researches, it is something that is increasing rather than decreasing.
Why Youth Drop Out Of Sports?
Children's surface reasons for withdrawal from sports are:
Participating in sport not being fun anymore
Failure to learn new skills or to improve on existing skills.
Lack of physical activity
Lack of thrills, challenges, and excitement
Poor team atmosphere, not making friends
Another surface reason given by youth sports participants for dropping out is "change of interest" or "other
things to do". An athlete's decision to drop out from one sport does not mean that she is a dropout from all
youth sport activities. She might be giving up swimming for tennis, or badminton for field hockey.
Consequently, it is important to determine if a youth is a specific-sport dropout or a general-sport dropout.
Withdrawing from one sport to participate in another is less of a concern to sport psychologists than dropping
out from sports altogether.
Other than surface reasons of why youth dropout, there are the underlying psychological reasons for
withdrawal. Distress and worry associated with too much emphasis upon winning and competition is an
example. There factors undermine a child's intrinsic motivation or love for the activity. There is no longer an
intrinsic reason to continue sports participation, and the external rewards are insufficient motivators.
Withdrawal from sport for underlying psychological reasons is more serious than withdrawal due to surface
Training Volunteer Coaches in Developed Countries
The best way to assure a quality youth sport program is to provide quality training and supervision of volunteer
coaches (Smith & Smoll, 1997). A number of coach training programs have been developed to assist volunteer
coaches in creating a positive and enjoyable athletic experience; we will be briefly discussing Coach
Effectiveness Training (CET; Smith & Smoll, 1997).
Sport Psychology (PSY407)
There are two types of reactions of coaches which may affect sport participation. Reactive behaviors
are coach reactions to players or team behavior. For example, a player makes a mistake and the coach
responds by verbally chastising the player. Spontaneous behaviors are initiated by the coach and do not
occur in response to player behavior.
Coach Effectiveness Training (CET)
The coach effectiveness training (CET) program is based upon over twenty years of research. The
purpose of the CET is to teach youth coaches how to engage in team building. Effective team building
results in teams that have a positive climate, whose members enjoy a sense of satisfaction, and feel
attraction to the team as well as each team member. The purpose of team building is not necessarily to
better win/loss record, but the promotion of more enjoyable and valuable developmental experience. A
CET workshop lasts approximately for two and a half hours. Behavioral guidelines for effective coaching
techniques are presented and discussed.
Coach-Parent Relationships
To a large extent, problems in youth sport come from two basic sources. The first is a failure on the part
of coaches and parents to distinguish clearly between the youth sports model and the professional model
of sport, and the second is what Smith and Smoll (1996) have named the "reversed-dependency trap" the
youth sports model provides an educational setting for the development of desirable physical and
psychological characteristics in the youth athlete. Conversely, the professional sports model is a
commercial enterprise in which the stated goals to entertain and to make money. Some parents and
coaches fail to differentiate between the two and act as if they are the same. The reversed-dependency
trap describes a situation in youth sport in which the child becomes an extension of the parent. A parent
comes to define his own sense of self-worth in terms of the success and failure of his son or daughter.
When this happens, the parent becomes a "winner" or a "loser" through his young athlete. The guiding
principle for a coach-parent relationship is good communication, and that it is two way street.
Cox, H. Richard. (2002). Sport Psychology: Concepts and Applications. (Fifth Edition). New York:
McGraw-Hill Companies
Lavallec. D., Kremer, J., Moran, A., & Williams. M. (2004) Sports Psychology: Contemporary Themes.
New York: Palgrave Macmillan Publishers
Table of Contents:
  1. SPORT PSYCHOLOGY DEFINED:Issue of Certification, The Research Sport Psychologist
  2. SELF-CONFIDENCE AND SPORT PSYCHOLOGY:Successful Performance, Verbal persuasion
  3. SELECTING SELF-TALK STATEMENTS:Skill accusation, Controlling effort
  4. GOAL ORIENTATION:Goal Involvement, Motivational Climate
  5. CAUSAL ATTRIBUTION IN SPORT:Fritz Heiderís Contribution, Other Considerations
  7. MOTIVATION IN SPORT:Social Factors, Success and Failure, Coachesí Behavior
  9. PRINCIPLES OF EFFECTIVE GOAL SETTING:Clearly identify time constraints
  10. A TEAM APPROACH TO SETTING GOALS:The Planning Phase, The Meeting Phase
  11. YOUTH SPORT:Distress and anxiety, Coach-Parent Relationships
  12. ATTENTION AND CONCENTRATION IN SPORT:Information Processing, Memory Systems
  13. ATTENTION AND CONCENTRATION IN SPORT:Measuring Attentional Focus
  14. PERSONALITY AND THE ATHLETE:Personality Defined, Psychodynamic Theory
  15. THE MEASUREMENT OF PERSONALITY:Projective Procedures, Structured Questionnaire
  16. PERSONALITY AND THE ATHLETE:Athletic Motivation Inventory, Personality Sport Type
  21. COPING STRATEGIES IN SPORT:Measurement of Coping Skill
  22. RELAXATION STRATEGIES FOR SPORT:Progressive Relaxation, Autogenic Training
  23. AROUSAL ENERGIZING STRATEGIES:Team Energizing Strategies, Fan Support
  24. AROUSAL ENERGIZING STRATEGIES:Precompetition Workout, Individual Goal Setting
  25. IMAGERY:Skill Level of the Athletes, Time Factors and Mental Practice
  26. IMAGERY:Symbolic Learning Theory, Imagery Perspective. Sensory Mode
  27. IMAGERY:Paivioís Two-Dimensional Model, Developing Imagery Skills
  28. THE ROLE OF HYPNOSIS IN SPORT:Defining Hypnosis, Social-Cognitive Theory
  29. THE ROLE OF HYPNOSIS IN SPORT:Achieving the Hypnotic Trance, Hypnotic Phase
  30. PSYCHOLOGICAL SKILLS TRAINING:Psychological Skills Training Program
  31. PSYCHOLOGICAL SKILLS TRAINING:Performance profiling, Performance routines
  32. ETHICS IN SPORT PSYCHOLOGY:Competence, Integrity, Social Responsibility
  33. AGGRESSION AND VIOLENCE IN SPORT:Defining Aggression, Catharsis hypothesis
  34. AGGRESSION AND VIOLENCE IN SPORT:The Catharsis Effect, Fan Violence
  35. AUDIENCE AND CROWD EFFECTS IN SPORTS:Social Facilitation, Crowd Hostility
  36. TEAM COHESION IN SPORT:Measurement of Team Cohesion
  37. TEAM COHESION IN SPORT:Predicting Future Participation, Team Building
  38. LEADERSHIP IN SPORT:Fiedlerís Contingency Theory, Coach-Athlete Compatibility
  39. EXERCISE PSYCHOLOGY:Special Populations, Clinical Patients
  40. EXERCISE PSYCHOLOGY:Social Interaction Hypothesis, Amine Hypothesis
  41. EXERCISE PSYCHOLOGY:The Theory of Planned Behavior, Social Cognitive Theory
  42. EXERCISE PSYCHOLOGY:Exercise Addiction, Bulimia Nervosa, Muscle Dysmorphia
  43. BURNOUT IN ATHLETES:Overtraining and Overreaching, Recommended Intervention
  44. THE PSYCHOLOGY OF ATHLETIC INJURIES:Personality Factors, Coping Resources
  45. DRUG ABUSE IN SPORT AND EXERCISE:Stimulants, Depressants