Emilie Le Beau Lucchesi, Why Sports Parents Sometimes Behave So Badly, NYTimes, Nov. 1, 2018:
A 2016 study in the Journal of Family Relations by Dr. Dorsch and colleagues found an inverse relationship between a child’s perception of their family’s commitment to youth athletics and their enjoyment of the sport. The study examined data from a national sample of 163 parent-child pairs — 78 fathers and 85 mothers. The families were fairly affluent, with a median income topping $120,000 a year, and more than three-fourths of the parents had a college degree.
Parents reported spending an average of $1,583.89 a year on their child’s sports participation, though that ranged widely [...]Families tended to spend more on their sons than daughters.
But spending more on the sport didn’t predict a child’s enjoyment of that sport. Rather, children who perceived their parents as investing heavily in their sport tended to report a greater sense of parental pressure and a reduced sense of enjoyment.
Stacy Warner, an associate professor and graduate coordinator for sport management at East Carolina University, says a desire to belong is another reason some parents become emotionally overinvested in their child’s sports. Traveling to tournaments and other investments of time and money can produce a tribal effect and sense of community. [...]
For parents who build a social life through their child’s sports, Dr. Warner said there is a strong desire to protect their position within the community. It is, after all, a community membership that can be withdrawn if a child does not make the league or the team is cut early from a tournament. A desire to remain with the social group can produce a strong emotional response if a parent perceives that a referee makes a bad call or a child plays sluggishly. [...]
A desire for community, as well as a need to see a return on investment, is not limited to children’s sports participation. Dr. Dorsch’s laboratory is also testing parental emotional involvement in the performing arts, such as musical theater, orchestra and dance.
“We have data that we’re digging into that shows a very similar pattern,” Dr. Dorsch said.
It’s a pattern that sports organizations and officials wish to stop. Mr. Mano, the founder of the National Association of Sports Officials, said many leagues now escort referees into games. Others require parents to sign a good behavior agreement, in which the penalties for violation can range from a parent being banned from the stands or a team being barred from finishing the season. Other leagues do not allow any parents into specific games or entire tournaments.