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Learning from sport burnout and overtraining
Learning from sport burnout and overtraining

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8 Tips for parenting children in sport

Those supporting children need to understand the range of factors which contribute to burnout. When tips to parents are distilled down to eight key messages (as you will see in the next activity) the emphasis is on parents helping their children to develop a healthy relationship with sport – this is the third of the strategies for parents and one of crucial importance in preventing burnout.

Activity 7 Helping children develop a healthy relationship with sport

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

This activity explores the burnout prevention strategy of parents developing a healthy relationship with sport for their child.

Read this infographic developed from Harwood and Knight’s (2009) research. What links can you make from their advice to the burnout insights from this course?

Described image
Figure 4 Tips for parenting children involved in sport
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The advice in Figure 4 (based on Harwood and Knight’s (2009) research) centres on understanding the child’s perspective and needs. In particular, there is recognition of the child’s autonomy (Tips 1, 2 and 3). In addition, by limiting discussion about parental expectations or outcomes (results) (Tip 4), parents are more likely to foster a mastery motivational climate.

The following tips also connect to burnout in different ways:

  • Tip 5 speaks to reducing stress by not placing the child in the middle of parent–coach disagreements
  • Tip 6 speaks to relatedness and social support needs, and
  • Tip 7 speaks to the potential stress of parents of being involved in their child’s sport.

Many of these tips are about reasonable and measured adult behaviour in children’s sports environments (i.e. balancing support with a hands-off approach). To summarise, positive parental support in competitive sport environments is likely to make them less stressful for children and to reduce the likelihood of burnout.

As you have seen, the influence of parents on whether their children are likely to suffer burnout or not is considerable. In the last three sections, you have covered the following strategies that may help:

  • reducing parental involvement and expectations, including avoiding early sports specialisation
  • fostering broader identities (this is something that coaches can also do)
  • encouraging parents to develop their child’s healthy relationship with sport. Parental tips focus on the themes of reducing stress, an awareness of needs supportive environments, and task mastery.