The Balancing of Parental Involvement in Fostering Collegiate Athletes


  • Jon Coles Grand Valley State University
  • Emily Wright Michigan State University
  • Michael Mignano Michigan State University


parent involvement; youth sport; pressure


The purpose of this study was to retrospectively examine student athletes’ perceptions of parental optimal and over involvement during youth sport. A single case study was employed, and semi-structured interviews were conducted with 11 Division II student athletes. Thematic analysis was used to analyze the data, guided by Hellstedt’s (1987) parent involvement continuum (under involved, moderate involved, over involved). Themes generated to characterize parental optimal involvement aligned best with the moderate involved parent and included: meaningful discussions regarding intentions and goals, parent investment, parents know their roles, and supportive engagement. Conversely, themes characterizing parental over involvement resulted in more negative youth sport experiences and included: pushing child beyond threshold, coaching from sidelines, and living vicariously through child. Within these themes, differences in athlete perceptions of and preferences for parental optimal versus over involvement emerged, highlighting the complex nature of identifying parent behaviors as either supportive or pressuring in youth sport.


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