Student Well-Being

Survey Assesses Parents’ Concerns Regarding Youth-Sports Participation

By Bryan Toporek — October 10, 2014 2 min read
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When it comes to youth-sports participation, parents host a variety of concerns, according to a new ESPN Sports Poll survey released Friday. None rank higher than the behavior of youth-sports coaches and the risk of injury, however.

In partnership with the Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society Program and espnW, ESPN surveyed 1,511 randomly selected Americans via telephone this past September to gauge their views on a number of youth-sports-related issues. Of that group, 322 were parents or guardians of children under the age of 18; their responses comprised the sample size for this particular survey.

More than 80 percent of the parents or guardians who participated in the survey allow their children to play sports, with only 11.2 percent holding their children out for non-age-related reasons. (Eight percent of parents had children who weren’t yet old enough to play sports.) However, 29.7 percent of mothers and 20.0 percent of fathers have considered not allowing their child to play a sport “because of a fear of concussions or head injuries,” the survey found. Football dominated that list, with 82.3 percent of parents weighing the idea of not allowing their children to participate, followed by soccer (20.3 percent), and “other” (18.3 percent).

Concussions and other assorted head injuries dominated the list of ailments parents are most concerned about, with 56.1 percent of mothers and 41.7 percent of fathers putting that atop their list. Broken bones were the next-highest concern, with 33.9 percent of fathers and 28.7 percent of mothers listing that as their top worry, followed by “any injury/serious injuries” (13.0 percent of fathers and 9.6 percent of mothers) and “other” (7.0 percent of fathers and 3.2 percent of mothers). Overall, nearly 9 in 10 mothers and fathers deemed youth-sports injuries either a “small” or “big” concern.

Nothing was a larger concern for youth-sports parents than the quality or behavior of youth coaches. Roughly 6 in 10 parents labeled it a “big concern,” with an additional two in 10 calling it a “small concern.” Around seven in 10 parents also expressed some degree of worry about the time commitment required for youth sports and the “emphasis of winning over fun,” per the survey.

Here’s a look at mothers’ top youth-sports concerns:

Mothers’ Youth-Sports Concerns | Create Infographics

“There is a realization by parents that we have a significant problem on our hands,” said Matthew Geschke, executive director of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation USA, to ESPNW’s Tom Farrey. “I think they understand now that the trajectory we’re on is detrimental to their kids. They think these programs are expensive, they don’t think there’s any good coaching, they don’t see kids having enough fun, and they think they’re going to get hurt.”

The Aspen Sports Institute is co-hosting a roundtable with espnW later today to discuss the issues surfaced by this survey.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.