How much can you push your child into participating in sport?


Can you push your child into participating in a sport, or must the will to participate develop naturally? SportMember is searching for the answer amongst phycologists and major personalities in the world of sport.

October 2nd, 2017

How much can you push your child into participating in sport?
The subject of a great debate, is the extent to which the child should be pressured to participate in a certain sport and to how much the child should participate when the sport has been chosen for them.

The start of a new season of sport also means the start for new players participating in that sport for the first time. The choice of sport is of reliant on the possibilities in the local area, but in many cases, it is actually the mother and father of the child that influence the decision. Their favourite sport, should to them also naturally be participated in by their child.

We can all agree, that it is fair. What on the other hand is the subject of great debate, is the extent to which the child should be pressured to participate in a certain sport and to how much the child should participate when the sport has been chosen for them. SportMember is bringing together the various viewpoints of the subject and evaluating the issue.

We start with the retired professional national team player in football Martin Jørgensen, whom himself got a very promising career from his talent. The foundation for an international career for 13 seasons in the Italian A series, was not caused by tough pressure from home, but from a pure and real passion for the sport. This principal idea for talent training within football, he still stands by to this day.

- It is all about practice, practice, and practice. There are no shortcuts. It’s hard work, it’s boring, cold, wet, and the coach is an idiot. It is therefore vital that you actually want to train, you need a passion for it. If you don’t have this passion, you won’t reach the top. This is therefore an argument against the parents that push their kids into participating. Because if the children don’t already have the passion to participate, then it is just a question of time before they stop, because it becomes too hard, Martin Jørgensen has previously told Lokalavisen Aarhus. 

Even though the previous national player, as a child didn’t have a problem with training until the sun set by his own will, there exists an ocean of examples of great sports icons – also in other sports – that needed the constant pressure from mum and/or dad in order to reach the top.

The unquestionably greatest golf player of all time, Tiger Woods, was dragged onto the pitch by the age of just 2 years old, and his father has written books based on the techniques, he used to train his son. Likewise, Andre Agassis’ great tennis career, was arguably the result of his father’s homebuilt ball machine, to which Agassis had to return the falls that were fired at him constantly. 

It Denmark, we can also find examples of prominent sport talents, that have been pushed through their childhood – with the most famous example being Caroline Wozniacki, that has enjoyed her status as the best female tennis player in the world. A status that was amongst other reasons, was achieved on a foundation of hard training from her tough and verbal father, Piotr Wozniacki.

The author of the book “The upbringing of a winner”, Rasmus Ankersen, has several times used their training together, when explaining the importance of parental pressure in order to reach the top within a sport. Apart from being the board director of FC Midtjylland and sports director of Brentford FC, he was also previously a mind coach.

If the children don’t already have the passion to participate, then it is just a question of time before they stop

- We need more individuals like Piotr Wozniacki. It might actually be his upbringing techniques and training, that we must follow. You can also look at Kevin Magnussen in Formel 1. He hasn’t followed the Danish model either. We need something more radical than what, Team Denmark has to offer. If you want to see the same results as those of Caroline and Kevin, you need something more radical anyways, Rasmus Ankersen stated according to Århus Stiftstidende in 2014 in connection to Wozniacki’s US Open placement. He explains further:

- We must challenge the classic ideals about, how much one can do. There exists a Danish mentality that, if you do something too much, it’s bad or unhealthy. Such an ideal is fine to have, but if we want to generate great sport talents, we need something more extraordinary. And it doesn’t seem as though Kevin and Caroline seem that unhealthy. Quite oppositely, I see them as both healthy and independent individuals, Ankersen concluded.

Ankersen meets support from one of the greatest sports talent from Denmark – if not the greatest. Eskild Ebbesen has not just achieved 3 Olympic gold medals, but has also continued his sporting career until he reached the age of 40. Today, he travels around the country making presentations about motivation and coaching, and he sees no problem in pushing your child in the world of sport.

- I don’t believe that, there exists any talents, that has such a great passion and wish to train within their sport, that they train automatically to the extent that they reach their goals. It requires a high level of discipline, and that others are motivating and pushing, so that you are focussed on achieving your goals, Eskild Ebbesen argues.

It is however, far from most athletes that manage to achieve what Ebbesen has achieved, and that get to enjoy all the success, fame and medals that goes along with it. Amongst the large group of people that never fulfil their talent, a large part of the reasons is to blame on a too great pressure, that leads to stress. This is the belief of child psychologist and previous board manager of ‘Children’s Rights’ group, John Alsted Halse.

- It often results in, that the parents expect and forces the child to take bigger steps, than their legs allow in order to achieve the surroundings wishes and requirements. It results in the opposite effect, and in my psychological career I have seen uncountable examples of, the children becoming demotivated and dropping their sport, once they reach puberty” John Alsted Halse said last year to Kristeligt Dagblad, while he still holds the belief that the parents must challenge their child to a reasonable extent.

Sports psychologist Nicklas Pyrdol Christensen agrees with Halse in that, it is the teenage years that determine, whether one becomes a talent with a sport or not. The pressure from home should however have the opposite effect of stress.

- It is expected to experience periods of low motivation amongst athletes in the younger years, where other social activities might seem more attractive. When this motivation to participate is falling, then the parent’s demands and expectations can support the child in continuing to participate in the sport, Pyrdol Christensen said, who has a clear impression of when these expectations crosses the line to having a negative impact on the child’s wish to participate.

- The negative push effect occurs, when the parent’s set demands for the child’s level and demand that they deliver good results immediately. In these situations, the parents risk giving the child a bad self-esteem, as they are left feeling as though they only have value and are loved, when they deliver good results. Instead, the parents should rather set demands in terms of input, attitude and development, because the child is actually in control of this, he concludes. 

Ready to get started?

Your club your way! Manage your club with SportMember and ease your work load. We’d love to help you get started. Create an account right away.
What does it cost?
Which needs do your club have? Basic or PRO subscription?
Pricing details
No 2 clubs are the same. Our features cover your needs.