'Pushy parents' put off pupils from playing sport

Running

Children as young as eight are being put off sport by their parents, a new study by Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) and Chance to Shine reveals today (17 April).

As the school summer term and cricket season get under way, 45% of 1,002 children aged eight-16 surveyed said that the bad behaviour of parents made them feel like they didn’t want to take part in sport. Four in 10 children (41%) said that their parents criticised their performance, with 16% admitting that it happened frequently or all the time.

Criticism of children reported in the research includes a parent telling a child that they are ‘too heavy’ or ‘lazy to run’ and that an error a child made was a ‘pathetic mistake.’ Some children admitted that their parents have sworn at them and another parent told their child that ‘you’re not good enough, you can’t do it, you’re worthless.’

However, the research also highlights a desire from children for their parents to watch and support them. Two thirds of children said they were happy when their parents watched them and 40% even claimed that parents watching them can improve their performance. 

Parents are aware of the adverse effect their conduct on the side-lines can have on children: 84% of 1,002 parents with children aged eight-16 agree that negative parental behaviour is putting children off sport. Sixty-one per cent also said that they think it is stressful for a child when their parents shout at them from the touchline. 

Parents also believe the problem is getting worse with just under six in 10 (58%) stating that there has been an increase in parents shouting from the side-lines compared to their childhood.

Both parents and kids have seen this at first-hand, with 44% of parents and 41% of children saying that they have witnessed parents abusing the coach or referee. Twenty-one per cent of children also said that they have seen parents abusing another child or children to benefit their own child.

AssemblyTo help build a culture of healthy competition and fair play, MCC and Chance to Shine are delivering a nationwide scheme in schools this summer. Chance to Shine coaches will deliver assemblies and lessons in playing sport in a sporting yet competitive manner to 350,000 children in over 5,000 state schools, as part of the MCC Spirit of Cricket campaign.

Talking about her work in schools as a 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.”

When asked to share examples of bad parental behaviour on the touchline, in the survey, children said they had seen a parent who ‘swore at their kids and made them cry’, one told an opposition child with a broken collar bone to ‘just get on with it’ and another parent ‘thru (sic) a coffee cup at the official’. There was even an incident where a child saw a mum ‘smash a car window’ after the opposition scored; while one child reported that ‘I saw a dad hit the ref once for sending his kid off.’

Parents also recalled seeing violence on the playing field where a ‘parent punched the ref.’ In one Under 9’s football game, ‘the police were called when two opposing parents started fighting after a bad tackle.’

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. With the MCC, we aim to inspire the next generation of players and spectators to embrace the Spirit of Cricket, and we hope the benefits will be felt well beyond our game.”

Derek Brewer, MCC Chief Executive, said, “Through our partnership with Chance to Shine, we are promoting the importance of playing sport in the right spirit to children. This scheme and the hundreds of school assemblies delivered by Chance to Shine are a fantastic way to do that. At MCC we are continuing to deliver the ‘Play Hard, Play Fair’ message both through our global projects and our local community work, and with cricket in the spotlight during an Ashes summer this year, I’m confident these positive messages can reach a wider audience than ever.”

Thanks to the partnership with MCC, children will have the chance to compete for their very own Ashes Urn this summer as 1,500 replica urns will be distributed to Chance to Shine schools.

The full survey can be viewed here.