Youth Sport Spectating among Parents During the COVID-19 Pandemic


  • Dr. Jerry F. Reynolds II Ball State University
  • Dr. Samantha Bates The Ohio State University
  • Dr. Matt Moore Ball State University



The COVID-19 pandemic caused significant changes to family life and youth sports activities around the globe. In efforts to promote continuity and youth participation in sports, and in lieu of risks for spreading the virus at competitions and games, the youth sport environment adapted to meet emerging health and safety protocols. The cancellation of youth sports and shifts to virtual spectating (i.e., watching children play sports online) were often enacted to protect families, yet little is known about how these changes physically, socially, and psychologically impacted parents and the family system. In response, we conducted a mixed-methods study to explore the lived experiences of parents of youth sport participants during the COVID-19 pandemic. This novel and exploratory research discovered several shifts in the physical environment of youth sport, including challenges with technology and limitations in the number of spectators at youth sporting events. Findings also revealed an array of psychosocial experiences among parents including feelings of grief, frustration, and sadness due to restrictions and sport cancellations, as well as fewer child-parent interactions and a diminished connection to sport in response to virtual spectating. We developed a conceptual model of how shifts in the youth sport environment influenced parent spectators. Our findings have important implications for practice and inform future areas of research regarding youth sports and the family system.

Keywords: parent spectators; youth sports; COVID-19 pandemic; family systems

Author Biographies

  • Dr. Jerry F. Reynolds II, Ball State University

    Dr. Reynolds is an Assistant Professor of Social Work at Ball State University.

  • Dr. Samantha Bates, The Ohio State University

    Dr. Bates is an Assistant Professor of Social Work at The Ohio State University. 

  • Dr. Matt Moore, Ball State University

    Dr. Moore is Chair and Associate Professor of the Department of Social Work at Ball State University.







How to Cite

Reynolds, J., Bates, S., & Moore, M. (2022). Youth Sport Spectating among Parents During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Journal of Amateur Sport, 8(1).