#Research brief

Stressors experienced by the parents of young footballers

Dr Valeria Eckardt, 27 Jun 2024


Supporting your team from the stands can be a stressful experience, especially if one of your children is involved in the game. In this video, Dr Valeria Eckardt discusses the challenges faced by the parents of young players, and considers what practitioners can do to lighten the load.

Parents make a massive contribution to youth football, but that contribution often comes at a cost. Getting your children to and from training and tournaments can be a stressful business – to say nothing of the strain of watching them compete. In this study, researchers from Germany and the United States attempted to measure that stress, work out where it came from, and suggest what practitioners can do to minimise it.

Key take-aways

  • Parents experience significant stress associated with their children’s involvement in youth football, as they have to deal with the demands of getting players to and from training, monitor their development, and support them during tournaments.
  • The majority of stressors result from problems experienced by the parents’ own children, the behaviour of other parents on the touchline, and parents’ relationships and interactions with their children’s coaches.
  • Problems with coaches tend to make parents angrier than other issues associated with youth football. Therefore, it might be advantageous for coaches to be aware of the effects of their behaviour, and to help facilitate a healthy exchange between parents and their clubs.

Watch brief

Part 1: About the study
Part 2: Results - the top 3 stressors
Part 3: The key role of coaches in reducing stress

Read summary

Part 1: About the study
The stress experienced by parents falls into three overarching categories. First, there is the organisational stress associated with the logistical challenge of getting their children to training and tournaments. Then there are developmental stressors, many of which are associated with finding the right balance between sporting activity and school. Finally, they are exposed to the stress that comes from watching their children compete. To identify and quantify these stressors, the researchers surveyed 330 parents of children at German youth academies, asking them to recall stressful situations and to assess how much stress they caused.

Part 2: Results - the top 3 stressors
In their responses, the parents surveyed mentioned 831 separate stressors, most of which were directly linked either to their own child’s experience, to the behaviour of other parents on the touchline, or to relationships and interactions with coaches. It is perhaps unsurprising that parents did not enjoy seeing their children substituted or fouled, but they were also worried by the behaviour of other parents towards players, and frustrated by coaches who failed to communicate properly with them or to appreciate their contribution.

Part 3: The key role of coaches in reducing stress
Significantly for those working in youth football, the parents consistently reported being angrier about unfair behaviour by coaches than about other issues, regardless of the parents’ age, gender or backgrounds. This underscores the need for coaches to foster open, transparent communication with parents and to make them feel their contribution is appreciated. Without the support of parents, youth football would cease to function. It is therefore recommended that practitioners establish and implement effective practices that ensure parents are included in a meaningful way.

Paper Citation
Eckardt, V., Dorsch, T. & Lobinger, B. (2021). Parents’ competitive stressors in professional German youth soccer academies: A mixed-method study. Psychology of Sport and Exercise. 58. 102089.

You can access the original paper here.

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