Youth Sport Spectating among Parents During the COVID-19 Pandemic
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
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Copyright (c) 2022 Dr. Jerry F. Reynolds II, Dr. Samantha Bates, Dr. Matt Moore
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