School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences


4 Feb 2015

SSEHS research on parenting in youth sport wins BASES prize

Parents often get a bad reputation for how they behave towards their children within the youth sport environment.  We have all heard stories of – or witnessed first-hand – pushy, competitive parents at both the touchline and the poolside.

But researchers within the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences have sought to understand how parents within the sport of swimming can positively influence the experience of their sporting young. 

This research was recognised by the British Association of Sport and Exercise Science (BASES) at their annual conference in November.  Loughborough’s Dr Julie Johnston was given the Sportesse Sport Science Free Communication award - the overall conference award - for her presentation of her doctoral research that emphasises the importance of a warm parenting style, characterised by high levels of emotional and esteem support. 

The research was co-supervised by Dr Chris Harwood (Loughborough University) and Dr Antoinette Minniti (Nottingham Trent University) with special advice from Dr Ian Taylor (Loughborough University).

Dr Johnston notes: ‘Parents often just want to know the best way to behave.  They like to have a role and know what that is.  This research gives us greater insight into the preferential parental interactions to be encouraged, namely, warmth through the provision of a “safe haven” for the young athlete, away from the pressures of the sport, in addition to providing unconditional love that does not appear to be contingent upon the athlete’s performance in the sport.’ 

Dr Johnston continues: ‘Parents also have a role in providing perspective to the young performer and the provision of esteem support may contribute to that through self-confidence boosting statements that may tap into other facets of the athlete’s life such as academic, social and family related areas.’ 

Results of the research also suggested that by encouraging parents to provide increased levels of esteem support they may be more likely to support a youth sport approach in which the athlete’s psychological, social and emotional development is enhanced alongside their physical, technical and tactical development.  This is an approach that is becoming more popular within talent development domains and something that Dr Johnston’s PhD explored more thoroughly.  For more information on this research please contact Dr Julie Johnston ( or Dr Chris Harwood (