Parental buy-in in the form of support and encouragement is a necessity if kids are to work harder and take sports more seriously.
Research has proven that lack of parental support in sports is visible. It shows that kids whose parents are involved perform to their fullest optimal level and tend to stay longer in the sports, while vice versa is true for kids with no parental support.
Dr Tshepang Tshube, a sport science psychologist at the University of Botswana, said the support comes in the form of financial assistance as well as physical presence during competitions and training. According to him, parental involvement, which he described as vital, can be measured in three levels.
“The first one is called over involvement. This is when a parent is overly involved and puts pressure on children. Research shows that such parents live through their children, and would ensure the kid plays sports for longer and make decisions on behalf of the kids. Kids then end up not enjoying the sport and want to quit while some have anxiety.”
“The second one is called optimal involvement, these are parents who are involved at an optimal level, kids themselves have the autonomy to decide for themselves and they enjoy the sport. The focus is not on winning but rather on enjoyment.”
“The third one is parental under involvement. This is whereby a parent is switched off and does not support their kids’ participation in sport. Such kids are identified late and lose on their athletic career. This shows that at an early stage of sport parents play a profound role in kids talent development,” Tshube explains.
While parental support is necessary for kids to fully participate, he however cautioned against parents over involvement or under involvement, which he said are detrimental. “This is why we say parents should be involved at an optimal level, to allow the kids to have autonomy,” he explained.
“In Botswana we have under parental involvement, kids whose parents do not support them and are not available to watch them play or train, hence it affects them psychologically as well as socially,” added Dr Tshube.
He noted that lack of parental involvement on kids’ sport may lead to them losing interest in sport or not getting the equipment and training gear they need.
“Kids who do not get all those above means their athletic career will be delayed and they may end up reaching elite sport very late just like Isaac Makwala. He ended up representing the country when he was way older. His talent was lost but could have long benefited the country from an earlier age and optimised.”
On what the reasons may be for most parents’ lack of interest in their kids’ involvement in sports, Tshube said it is mostly to do with socioeconomics. “Parents would rather be at work and make ends meet than watch their kids play sport,” he said.
“We are still in a country where value of sport is very insignificant and sports is not taken as a career. Parents look at sport as play not as a potential income generating career that their kids could take,” Tshube concluded.