The parent perspective on the youth sport context


Parents play an important role in the youth sport experience. They are responsible for introducing athletes to their sport, providing them with the necessary tools and equipment to participate, and giving them the required financial and emotional support to succeed. Despite this importance, very few studies have examined parents in the sport context. The purpose of the present study was to examine parents’ perceptions of their child’s sport climate, within the framework of two leading motivational theories: Self-Determination and Achievement Goal Theory. The sample was comprised of 325 parents of basketball players participating in the Ontario Basketball provincial championships. Parents were invited to participate in the study through their child’s coach, following the team’s participation in the championship tournament. The results showed that the more parents perceived that the sport climate was task involved (compared to ego-involved), the more it was related to the perception of coaches' psychological needs supportive interpersonal behaviors (compared to needs thwarting), to their child self-determined motivation in, and in turn, to their perceptions of whether their child would continue playing basketball the following season. The model testing occurred in two phases. In the first phase the model examining the relationship between parents’ perceptions of the climate, coach behaviour, and athlete motivation was tested and had a good fit (χ2 (83) = 370.43, p < .001, SRMR = .037, CFI = .94, NFI = .92). In the second phase, the likelihood of continuing to play basketball was added to the model and it was tested using a subsample of the larger sample (n = 139). Again, this model demonstrated adequate fit (χ2 (97) = 280.54, p < .001, SRMR = .052, CFI = .91, NFI = .90). The results support that SDT and AGT provide an appropriate framework for examining parents’ perceptions of the youth sport context.

Acknowledgments: This research was conducted in collaboration with Ontario Basketball and was prepared while the first author was supported by a doctoral scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).