Youth Sport Parent Perceptions: Interference with Family Time

This week I and graduate student Alyssa Norris released a first-of-its-kind, evidence-based report titled Youth Sport Report: Parent Perceptions How Frequently Youth Sport Interferes With Family Time (LaVoi & Norris, 2011).

Youth sports informed by sport science and “done right” can provide a positive, meaningful context for youth development and family engagement. Yet for some families, concerns about the professionalization of youth sport are intensifying due to overuse injuries, early specialization, pressure to achieve, and increased commitment and time demands, which place the health and well-being of children and youth at risk. However, little is known about parents’ perceptions of how youth sport interferes with family functioning. The data in this report aims to fill that gap.

Based on the data herein and contrary to some scholarly and media reports of “overscheduling” problems—namely maladaptive child outcomes, and interference with family meals, vacations, and attendance of religious services—due to participation in youth sports, parents in this sample perceived youth sport minimally interferes with family functioning. Explanations for this occurrence are offered.

To download the full report click here.

Family Meals on the Run: Is the mini-van the new dinner table for families involved in youth sports?

Did you know that researchers of the University of Minnesota have found that sitting down as a family at the dinner table appears to play an important role in promoting healthful eating in kids? Among children ages 11 to 18 who eat meals with their family consume less snack foods, higher amounts of fruits, vegetables, grains and nutrient-dense foods than those who eat separately. Additionally, family meals are related to healthy weight control (and less prevalence of eating disorders for girls. More on the girl-specific findings here), better academic achievement (GPA), and less substance abuse in children.

mini van dinner tableHowever, sitting down at the family dinner table is not a reality for many families involved in youth sports (especially with multiple children!). This week my college tennis teammates got together with our families for a picnic. One of my friends with 3 children in youth sports all under age 10 said, “I don’t even know what sitting down at the table together looks like anymore! This is our dinner table (pointing to her “cooler” that looked much like a giant padded purse).” So it got me thinking—

Do the benefits of family meals ONLY accrue when families sit down together at the dinner table? From some data I’ve been collecting, 15% of youth sport parents report youth sports “never” interfere with family meal time, and 7% report it “frequently” interferes—leaving a majority of parents to claim it “somewhat” interferes. Is the mini-van the new dinner table for families involved in youth sports? I feel a future research project brewing…