Teen Athletes' View of Success Affected by Parents, Peers
Dec. 15, 1999 (Minneapolis) -- Even if teen athletes view success as
"how you played the game," they may feel that their parents define
success as winning, according to Spanish researchers. These athletes also are
more likely to have peers who support their point of view, the authors report
in a recent article in the International Journal of Sports
However, athletes who define success as winning are likely to feel that
parents, coaches, and peers share their view, write lead researcher Amparo
Escartí and colleagues. The possibility of these two attitudes are important
for athletes, their parents, and their coaches to bear in mind, Darren
Treasure, PhD, tells WebMD.
"This study is one of several sports psychology studies that looks at
how athletes' [views of success] are formed," says Treasure. "How
success is perceived affects people's performance in sports. Those who perceive
success as winning do fine as long as they're winning but become discouraged in
adverse settings. In those settings, athletes who perceive success as doing
well continue to persist and do well." Treasure is an assistant professor
of sport and exercise psychology at Arizona State University in Tempe.
In a survey of 90 male and 44 female high school track and tennis athletes,
the Spanish investigators asked athletes how they defined success, how their
parents and coaches defined it, and how their friends defined it. Friends were
categorized into those who were involved in athletics and those who were not.
The average age of respondents was 15.
Respondents were considered task-oriented if they viewed success in terms of
whether they were performing as well as possible, mastering skills, and
overcoming difficulties. Respondents were more ego-oriented if they defined
success as performing in a manner superior to opponents and beating other
people. They found that athletes who were more task-oriented felt that their
criteria for success differed from those of their parents and coaches, whom
they saw as more ego-oriented, but similar to those of their task-oriented
peers. More ego-oriented respondents were more likely to feel that their
success criteria were in agreement with those of both their peers and the
adults in their lives.
"One of the interesting findings in this study was that there was little
difference between boys and girls in task or ego orientation," Ian Tofler,
MD, tells WebMD. Tofler, the co-chair of the sports psychiatry committee of the
American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and a consulting
psychiatrist at Children's Hospital in Los Angeles, tells WebMD that a certain
amount of parental pride in children's athletic accomplishments is normal.
However, parents should avoid becoming overly invested in their children's
achievements, particularly in athletics, because this stance can actually harm
children by encouraging them to perform despite injuries and fatigue.