Youth soccer: the influences of significant others' behavior explored

Greg Yates, M. Lafferty, V.B. Unnithan

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting Abstractpeer-review


PURPOSE: To identify age-related differences in the frequencies and nature of significant others' verbal comments at male youth soccer matches, and to assess whether it is typically conducive of a desirable youth sport environment. 
METHODS: The nature of comments made by 32 randomly selected significant others attending youth soccer games in the Central Lancashire (UK) Junior League (under 9 – under 16), were recorded. A total of 16 soccer matches were attended during mid-season. Prior to selecting each subject, the researcher observed interactions between the youth players and adult spectators, in order to identify apparent significant other-child relationships. The method used for data collection was an 'unobtrusive language analysis', utilizing a modified version of the Parent Observation Instrument for Sports Events (POISE) to hand record and categorize comments. Both researchers were located as inconspicuously as possible (out of the subjects' line of vision) to avoid any responses in behavior. The comments were categorized in terms of 1) nature (e.g. positive – reinforcing), 2) target (e.g. associated child) and 3) event (e.g. ball in play). Data were analyzed using the non-parametric Kruskal-Wallis test to identify differences in the nature of general comments (all targets) and comments directed specifically towards the associated child, between age groups. 
RESULTS: No significant differences were identified in the frequencies or nature of significant others' general comments, and comments directed specifically towards the associated child, between broader age groups (u-9 to u-12 and u-13 to u-16). However, analysis of individual age-groups revealed significantly (P<0.05) higher frequencies of general comments in the u11 to u12 group, and significantly (P<0.05) lower frequencies of comments directed towards the associated child in the u15 to u16 group. Individual age group analysis of the nature of comments, also revealed significantly higher positive comments and significantly lower neutral comments in the u9 to u10 age group, for both general targets and comments directed towards the associated child. 
CONCLUSIONS: Although the majority of comments were of a positive nature, overall a higher percentage of negative comments (mean = 26.4%) were made than is advised in creating a supportive learning environment. Modification of significant others' verbal behavior to be more representative of youth soccer players' age related requirements, may reduce youth soccer attrition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S224-S224
Number of pages1
JournalMedicine & Science in Sports & Exercise
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2004
Externally publishedYes


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