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Original articles  SOCIOLOGY 

The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness 2003 June;43(2):250-5


language: English

Parental influence on sport participation in elite young athletes

Baxter-Jones A. D. G. 1, Maffulli N. 2, on behalf of Toya Study Group

1 College of Kinesiology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada 2 Department of Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgery, Keele University School of Medicine North Staffordshire Hospital, Staffordshire, UK


Aim. To ascertain how talented young British swimmers, gymnasts, tennis and soccer players are introduced to their sport, and to identify how they are encouraged into intensive systematic training.
Methods. Two hundred and eighty-two elite young athletes (aged 8 to 17 yrs) and their parents were interviewed in their homes to identify how and why they started intensive training.
Results. Of the 4 sports studied (soccer, gymnastics, tennis, and swimming), parents of swimmers were more likely introduce their children to the sport (70%), while parents of gymnasts (42%) were the least likely to do so. However, in this sports parents played a lesser role in the transition to intensive training (6% and 5%, respectively). Nearly half the soccer players (47%) became involved in the sport because of their own interest, with the majority making the transition to intensive training because of encouragement by a coach (65%). Self-motivation (27%) and parental influence (57%) brought children into tennis with 25% of the young athletes in the sample autonomously deciding to start intensive training. Children from the lower socio-economic classes were underrepresented, and the total number of 1-parent families (5.3%) was considerably less than current British national norms (16.1%).
Conclusion. In Britain, young athletes’ involvement in high level sport is heavily dependent on their parents, with sports clubs and coaches playing an important later role. In the present socio-economic and cultural situation, many talented youngsters with less motivated parents will not undertake sport. Talented youngsters from a poorer economic background will be heavily disadvantaged, especially in sports such as tennis

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