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The purpose of the current study was to conduct an examination of spectator (i.e., parental) behavior at youth hockey games in a large Canadian city. Using naturalistic observation methods, an event sampling procedure was used to code spectators’ comments. Of specific interest were the type of remarks made, who made them (i.e., males versus females), the intensity of those remarks and whether they varied by child age, gender, and competitive level. We were also interested in whether the majority of onlookers’ comments were actually directed at the players, on-ice officials, or fellow spectators. Five observers attended 69 hockey games during the 2006–2007 hockey season. There was a significant variability in the number of comments made, with an average of 105 comments per game. The majority of the comments were generally positive ones, directed at the players. Negative comments, although quite infrequent, were directed largely at the referees. Females made more comments than did males, although males made more negative and corrective comments, and females made mostly positive comments. Comments varied significantly as a function of gender and competitive level. Proportionally more negative comments were made at competitive, as opposed to recreational games. An interaction was found for female spectators as their comments varied as a function of both the competitive level and the gender of the players. Results of this study are in direct contrast to media reports of extreme parental violence at youth hockey games, and provide unique information about the role of parental involvement at youth sporting events.
Bowker, Boekhoven, Nolan, Bauhaus, Glover, Powell, and Taylor are with the Dept. of Psychology, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, K1S 5B6 Canada