Sports officials and parents as spectators: Diffusing tensions on the sidelines

Tom Webb, Camilla Knight

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
7 Downloads (Pure)


Youth sport competitions are often emotionally charged events, with children, parents, coaches, and officials reporting emotions ranging from anxiety and stress through to enjoyment because of their involvement. One of the sources for the negative emotions and experiences associated with youth sport is the behaviors displayed by spectators on the sidelines. Typically, in youth sport events, these spectators are the parents of the children involved in the competition. Recognizing the detrimental consequences that arise for children when parents are inappropriately or negatively involved on the sidelines, sport psychology researchers and practitioners have increasingly targeted interventions at improving parents’ involvement in competitions. Although such interventions are valuable and important for improving children’s youth sport experiences, their focus is typically exclusively upon the interactions and relationships between parents and their children. However, negative behaviors from parents on the sidelines can also impact others in the environment, particularly sports officials who report abuse and aggression from the sidelines as one of the primary reasons for leaving their roles. As officiating numbers decline, sporting organizations are considering how to best tackle these attrition rates and one area that may be worthy of consideration is the interaction between parents and officials. To-date, limited consideration has been given to the bi-directional interactions between parents and officials or to steps that could be taken to improve interactions. To this end, the purpose of this commentary is to increase awareness, initiate conversations, stimulate research, and enhance applied practice targeting the interactions between officials and parents in youth sport.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)568-579
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Applied Sport Psychology
Issue number4
Early online date26 Dec 2023
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2024


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