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The overall purpose of this study was to examine parents’ perspectives on the benefits of sport participation for their young children. Specifically, this study addressed two research questions: (1) What benefits do parents perceive their children gain through participation in organized youth sport programs? (2) How do parents think their children acquire these benefits? Twenty-two parents (12 mothers, 10 fathers) of children aged 5-8 years participated in individual semistructured interviews. Data were subjected to qualitative analysis techniques based on the interpretive description methodology. Parents reported their children gained a range of personal, social, and physical benefits from participating in sport because it allowed them to explore their abilities and build positive self-perceptions. Parents indicated they believed children acquired benefits when coaches created a mastery-oriented motivational climate that facilitated exploration. Crucially, parents appeared to play the most important role in their children’s acquisition of benefits by seizing “teachable moments” from sport and reinforcing certain principles in the home environment.
Neely and Holt are with the faculty of Physical Education & Recreation, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.