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Apr 10, 2014 12:05 PM EDT

Parental Financial Contributions Add Pressure to Succeed Among Young Athletes, Study

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Young athletes are less likely to enjoy their sport when they feel compelled to win because of their parent's financial contributions, according to a Utah State University study. Researchers said that student's enjoyment is more likely to decline when a significant portion of parents' income, as much as 10 percent, is invested in their sports activities.

"It wasn't necessarily about spending more, but it was those families where parents exhibited more forms of parental pressure ... seeing their kids' sport as a commodity," said assistant professor Travis Dorsch, who headed the study. "They put the money in and they expect something out of it, and that's where those pressure behaviors were coming in," Desert News reports.

For the study, the researchers surveyed 163 parent-child pairs. The researchers asked parents about family demographics, household income and sport-related spending, while the children were questioned about parent support and pressure, sport enjoyment and motivation to participate.

The researchers found that parent's financial contributions to their children's sport did not affect their pleasure as long as they perceived it to be a merely a support or encouragement. But more often children related the money with parental pressure.

Kevin Rothlisberger, one of the undergraduate researchers said that all the parents, who participated in the study, reported that they never felt like they were pressuring their child. Dorsch, director of the USU Families in Sport Lab, said that a child may refer to it as pressure, but parents think about it as support or involvement in their life.

"It was never the parents' intention to pressure their child," Rothlisberger said. "They were investing in something and they wanted to see the fruit of it and be successful. When they weren't successful, that added stress to the parent and was magnified to a certain extent in the young athlete."

Dorsch suggests parents encourage their children at home while teaching them the importance of self-satisfaction over public acknowledgment.

"As parents, often the first question we ask is, 'Did you win?'" Dorsch said. "We can reframe that to be, 'Did you have fun today? What did you learn?' This reinforces to the child that we're focused on the process and not the outcome."

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