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Pushy parents 'curbing enthusiasm'

Published 17/04/2015

Nearly half of youngsters questioned said parents' bad behaviour had discouraged them from taking part in sport
Nearly half of youngsters questioned said parents' bad behaviour had discouraged them from taking part in sport

Pushy, abusive parents are turning children as young as eight off sport, according to a poll.

Youngsters report being told they are "too heavy", "lazy to run" or have made a "pathetic mistake" by mums and dads who are highly critical of their performance on the playing field.

Some pupils said that their parents had sworn at them, while one admitted they had been told "you're not good enough, you can't do it, you're worthless", the study by Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) and the Chance to Shine charity found.

In total, nearly half (45%) of the eight to 16-year-olds questioned said the bad behaviour of parents made them feel like they did not want to take part in sport.

More than four in 10 (41.5%) said their own mums and dads had criticised their sporting prowess, with around 16% saying this happened frequently or all the time.

The findings also highlighted the bad behaviour of adults on the touchline, with 40.6% of those polled saying they had seen parents abusing a coach or referee, 20.7% had witnessed parents abusing other children to benefit their own, and 20.5% saying they had seen abuse of a child's opposite player or team.

One youngster said they had seen a parent who "swore at their kids and made them cry", another saw someone throw a coffee cup at an official, and a third child reported that a dad "hit the ref once for sending his kid off".

Nearly half of the children surveyed said that having their mum or dad watching did not affect their performance.

Over a third (39.6%) said that having them watch improved their performance, while one in eight (12.4%) said it made it worse.

Just over half said they thought winning meant the same amount to their parents as it did to them, while one in four (25.7%) said a win meant more to their parents and 22.9% said it meant more to them and their team-mates.

It was not all bad news - the poll also found that two-thirds (66.1%) of children were happy when their parents were there to watch them, with 51.4% saying it made them feel proud.

Luke Swanson, chief executive of Chance to Shine, added, "This research confirms the central role of parents in supporting their children to play and enjoy sport.

"At the same time it suggests that, all too often, we can curb their enthusiasm.

"This is a wake-up call to anyone who supports their children from the boundary, the touchline or the courtside."

MCC and Chance to Shine said it would be providing a nationwide scheme in schools this term aimed at building a culture of healthy competition and fair play.

This included assemblies and lessons on playing sport in a sporting yet competitive manner for 350,000 children in over 5,000 state schools.

Chance to Shine coaching ambassador, England cricketer Kate Cross said: "We go into schools and teach children the importance of winning and losing with dignity.

"We also talk to them about the importance of respecting their opponents, the umpires or referees and their own team-mates.

"We want them to be competitive but there is a line that shouldn't be crossed.

"That applies to children as well as to any pushy parents watching them."

:: The poll questioned 1,002 eight to 16-year-olds who play sport between March 20 and 25.

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