Examine the issues that are faced by clubs and policy makers in an attempt to encourage young people to continue to participate in an active lifestyle. In doing this you should pay particular attention to considering the roles of influential others during the various developmental stages (as outlined by cote and hay, 2002) of a young athletes career. “Whether children remain in sport and become involved in regular physical activity depends on personal experiences, which are heavily influenced by their social environment” (Cote & Hay (A), 2002: 486).
This proclamation from Cote and Hay demonstrates that external influences are the dominant factor in children’s continued partaking of sport. This essay will consider the multi facets of any given child’s social environment, and analyse the extent to which each has a bearing on participation, whilst placing this in the context of Cote & Hays (2002) three stages of participation ” the sampling years, specializing years, and investment years” (Cote & Hay (A), 2002: 487).
The essay will then progress to scrutinize policies that have been implemented to increase participation and manage the identified issues. In a paper presented to Sport England Tess Kay referred to the family as “a critical agent for sports socialisation” (Kay, 2003: 39). The relevance of this assertion to initial child participation in sport is demonstrated by the study of Cote (1999) which stated “during the sampling years parents were responsible for getting their children interested in sport” (Cote, 1999: 401).
Thus parents are the initiators to sport participation, responsible for the activities they are exposed to and the key influence in whether children move on to the specializing stage of development. Cote’s (1999) study showed that in the sampling phase parents main emphasis “was to have their children experience fun and excitement through sport” (Cote, 1999: 401). He goes on to state that this is important as the motive for initial child participation is enjoyment (Cote 1999), hence continued participation by children after the sampling stage is often dependent on the type and emphasis of support offered by parents.
Parents should ensure “deliberate play” (Cote & Hay (A), 2002: 491) is the focus as “emphasis on performance may influence children’s motivation for participation to the extent they drop out of organized sport” (Cote & Hay (A), 2002: 486). This is a key issue for clubs and policy makers as adult norms and values can transcend into the youth sport structure through parents, having a detrimental effect.
Values such as increased adult expectations for personal performance, physical excellence and stress on achievement lead to a neglect of enjoyment, and dropping out inevitably follows (Cote & Hay (A), 2002). “Parental expectations influence the decision to engage in particular activities” (Cote & Hay (B), 2002: 512) and require a delicate balance as high and low expectations are associated with less enthusiasm from children and thus lack of participation (Power & Woolger, 1994).
Negative experiences with parents are an important factor that helps explain the decrease in sport participation as children age. During the transition from the sampling years to the specializing years, “parents roles should be to facilitate rather than direct sport involvement” (Cote & Hay (B), 2002: 513), this with reasonable expectations will encourage continued participation. My experience was one of parent facilitation as I was encouraged to pursue whatever sport I enjoyed the most by my parents.
Increased awareness of this issue is needed, as many parents would believe their attitudes were having a positive not negative effect on participation. This may have to come by clubs being directed by government policy, and then educating parents making sure the emphasis from them is on enjoyment at the early stages of sport involvement (as was found in Cote’s (1999) study). This would allow increased participation into the later stages of sporting development. The previous paragraphs have highlighted the issues of support emphasis from parents.
The focus will now change to the type of support needed by parents through the developmental stages and how this affects clubs and policies in terms of continued child participation. In the sampling stage Cote and Hay (2002) concluded that emotional support in terms of being there for comfort and security in times of anxiety and stress was the most important factor. In practical terms this may require clubs to encourage parents to come and watch sessions or just educate them in the benefits of positive feedback to the children.
My parents often came to watch me play badminton, which gave me satisfaction and made me want to continue to play and impress them. As children move into the specializing years Kirk et al (1997) summarize that “families make a substantial contribution to their children’s involvement in sport through commitment of their time particularly through transporting, spectating and often as club volunteers” (Kirk et al, 1997: 70). This combined with financial and emotional strain allows the participation in sport to continue at the higher developmental levels (Cote, 1999).
The increase in commitment needed from families and children at the specializing stage can put strain on the athlete-parent relationship. Hellstedt (1987) suggested that a moderate level of involvement promotes the best interest of the child, even if it means sacrificing personal interests. (Cited in Cote and Hay, 2002: 506). Parental involvement can be viewed by the athlete as facilitative or debilitative towards their progression. An over involved parent for example could cause a negative effect on the relationship by placing pressure on the child.
Cote’s (1999) research showed that parents who followed Hellstedt’s moderately involved model and “facilitated their children’s involvement in sport rather than directing them” (Cote, 1999: 406) assisted continued participation in an active lifestyle. Thus encouraging parents to follow the moderately involved model is a key issue for clubs and policy makers pursuing progression of elite athletes, and general increased partaking in active lifestyles by children.