Parental Pressure, Anxiety, and Performance Among Age Group Swimmers
Background/Purpose: Parents introduce children to youth sport and can increase a child’s level of enjoyment in the sport. However, parents can also place too much pressure on the child, which can lead to increased pre-competition anxiety and decreased performance (Bois, Lalanne, & Delforge, 2008; Scanlan & Lewthwaite, 1984). The purpose of this study was to examine the relationships among perceived and desired parental pressure, pre-competition state anxiety, subsequent performance, and intention to continue the sport in youth swimmers ages 9-18. Method: A sample of 43 swimmers (17 male, 26 female; M=12.8±2.6 years) on a United States Swimming (USS) sanctioned club team in a mid-sized Southern city participated in this study. These swimmers completed the directive behavior scale of the Parental Involvement in Sport Questionnaire (PISQ) in the days preceding a swim meet. Variables analyzed in the PISQ include perceived pressure, desired pressure and the discrepancy between perceived and desired pressure for each parent. Immediately before the swimmer’s first race of this meet, each athlete completed the Competitive State Anxiety Inventory-2 Modified for Children (CSAI-2C); the swimmer’s performance from this first race was compared to the previous personal best of the athlete to develop a performance time-ratio. After the meet concluded, each swimmer declared his or her intention to continue swimming past this year. Analysis/Results: Bivariate correlations and regressions were run to analyze the questionnaires. Discrepancy of father’s pressure (b=0.277, p=. 021) and self-confidence (b=-.374, p=. 004) were significant predictors of cognitive anxiety in a regression analysis. In separate regression analyses, cognitive anxiety predicted intention to continue (b =-.066, p=. 036); the more cognitive anxiety a swimmer experiences, the less likely that swimmer will intend to continue swimming and age was the only significant predictor of performance (b=.012, p<.001). Conclusions: Results indicate the importance of working with parents to learn appropriate supportive behaviors when interacting with their children in sport settings and working with parents and coaches to develop programs to reduce cognitive anxiety in children participating in sport.