As children all across the country will soon be out of school and the summer sports season gets underway, parents and youth sports coaches return to the sidelines as well. At the same time, a survey of 1,000 youth sports parents and 501 youth sports coaches by Liberty Mutual Insurance Responsible Sports uncovered interesting findings that suggest parents and coaches may be on a different playing field when it comes to priorities about competitiveness, parent involvement, responsible sideline behavior and safety concerns.
Among the key findings, 77 percent of parents place a high importance on their child’s coach to be a caring individual versus only 59 percent who place the same importance on the coach being skilled in that sport. And yet, one-third of coaches (36 percent) say they have experienced problems with parents’ unreasonable expectations regarding winning – despite three in four parents saying a primary reason they enrolled their child in youth sports was simply to have fun.
“Competitiveness at the youth sports level is an important life lesson learned on the playing field but is often misinterpreted to have a “win-at-all-costs” mentality,” said Picabo Street, a two-time Olympic medalist in alpine skiing, youth sports parent, and Liberty Mutual Insurance Responsible Sports ambassador. “Healthy competition – which includes learning from losses as much as learning from wins – is essential, and should be balanced with skill building and simply having fun to ensure a positive youth sports experience.”
Interestingly, coaches at each of the three youth sports levels – elementary school, middle school, and high school – felt competitiveness in youth sports was more important than parents in the respective age groups:
Among the other key Liberty Mutual Insurance Responsible Sports survey results:
Setting the Right Example
Among the biggest concerns cited by youth sports coaches about parents is sideline behavior. Many coaches report that negative yelling by parents directed at players, officials and them by parents is commonplace.
Another contrast between parents’ and coaches’ perspectives surrounds parental involvement. While nine out of 10 parents claim to be involved by attending practices and games, nearly half (46 percent) of coaches say they experience problems with parents’ lack of involvement. As a reminder to parents, there are numerous ways to become involved with a child’s sports team at varying levels of commitment, including assistant coaching, attending practices and games, bringing snacks to practice and driving carpools.
Concern About Concussions
Concussions are a top injury concern among youth sports parents, with an increasing level of worry as the child ages from elementary school to high school. Yet, this concern isn’t necessarily factoring into participation decisions or discussions.
- While 82 percent of parents say they are concerned about the risk of concussions as a result of participating in youth sports, 47 percent say that fear factored into the decision over which sport their child would play.
- Youth athletes are far more likely to raise a concern about concussions with their coach (35 percent) than their parents (12 percent).
- Parents of high school-aged athletes are more likely to discuss the dangers of concussions with their child (77 percent) than are parents of middle school children (68 percent) and elementary school children (53 percent).
“These findings accentuate the disconnect some parents and coaches have about the role youth sports should play in developing our children into responsible community members,” said James MacPhee, senior vice president & Chief Marketing Officer at Liberty Mutual Insurance. “It also validates the need for our Responsible Sports program, which provides a great toolkit for parents and coaches to help ensure a positive, rewarding experience for all.”
About the Study
As a leading resource in youth sports, Liberty Mutual Responsible Sports program commissioned Braun Research to conduct a national survey to uncover trends in both parents and youth coaches’ perceptions in the youth sports category. 1,000 parents of 7-17 year olds who participate in organized youth sports participated in the survey, resulting in a margin of error +/- 3.1%. 501 youth sports coaches participated in the survey, resulting in a margin of error of +/- 4.4%.