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75% of coaches say parents focus too much on their kids winning

Staff writer |
Seventy-five percent of youth sports coaches say most parents place too much emphasis on their child winning games, highlighting the "win at all costs" culture among many sports parents, according to a new CoachUp survey.

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An even higher percentage of coaches - 95 percent - say they've seen a parent yell at a referee during a game, setting an example of poor sportsmanship for their young athlete that will stay with them long after the game ends.

"The pressure on young athletes to play well has never been greater and parents often unwittingly make choices that value winning over the child's well-being," said Dr. Amy Baltzell, a Boston University sports psychology professor, former Olympic rower, youth coach and co-author of the sports parenting book, Whose Game Is It, Anyway?

"Youth sports can be a wonderful way to teach life's lessons, strengthen the habit of physical activity and help children develop into confident, well-rounded adults but parents can undermine these lessons by putting too much pressure on participation and performance or by behaving poorly (e.g. coaching, criticizing, yelling) from the sidelines."

The CoachUp survey also examined another growing trend: parents who sign their kids up in multiple sports per season, often because they fear their young athletes will fall behind their peers.

More than half of coaches – 55 percent – said to avoid sports "burnout," elementary school kids should play only one organized sport per season, the survey found.