The parent-coach/child-athlete relationship in youth sport: Cordial, contentious, or conundrum?

Maureen R. Weiss, Susan D. Fretwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


The roles of coach and parent are often synonymous in youth sport, but little data-based research has been conducted on the parentcoach/child-athlete relationship. Six boys in U–12 competitive soccer were interviewed regarding positive and negative aspects about playing for their father-coach. Similar questions were posed to father-coaches and two teammates. Inductive content analysis indicated that, among the benefits, sons identified perks, praise, technical instruction, understanding of ability level, insider information, involvement in decision making, special attention, quality time, and motivation. Costs of being coached by one’s father included negative emotional responses, pressure/expectations, conflict, lack of understanding/empathy, criticism for mistakes, and unfair behavior. For father-coaches, positive themes included taking pride in son’s achievements, reason for coaching, positive social interactions, opportunity to teach skills and values, enjoying coaching son, and quality time. Negatives included inability to separate parent-child from coach-player role, placing greater expectations and pressure on son, and showing differential attention toward son. While teammates perceived some favoritism by the parent-coach, they cited mostly positive instructional experiences. Results are discussed within motivational theories that highlight the influence of significant adults on children’s psychosocial development in the physical domain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)286-305
Number of pages20
JournalResearch Quarterly for Exercise and Sport
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2005

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful to the executive director of the youth soccer organization for his assistance in accessing father-coaches, son-players, and teammates. We also thank all the participants in the semistructured interviews for their time, insights, and interest in sharing knowledge about the parent-coach phenomenon. We would also like to sincerely thank Emilio Ferrer for his contributions to decisions regarding methodology and for interviewing participants, Cheryl Stuntz for her help with data analysis, and Daniel Gould for his thoughtful comments during the inception of this study. This study was supported in part by a grant to the first author by the American Sport Education Program. Please address all correspondence concerning this article to Maureen R. Weiss, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia, P.O. Box 400407, 210 Emmet Street, South, Charlottesville, VA 22903-4407.


  • Coaching behaviors
  • Motivation
  • Parent-child relationship
  • Sport participation


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