Athlete perceptions and consequences of parental background anger in youth ice hockey

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Athlete perceptions and consequences of parental background anger in youth ice hockey

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One of the largest problems within the landscape of youth ice hockey is poor parental behavior. It is not uncommon to witness parents yelling and engaging in harassment and arguments with referees, coaches, other parents and players. Occasionally, physical fights between parents and/or coaches occur as well as parents yelling at their own and other kids. From the perspective of the observer these behaviors constitute background anger. Background anger as a construct within sport is defined as "the presence of verbal, nonverbal, or physical conflict between individuals that does not directly involve the observer" (Cummings & Cummings, 1988; Omli & LaVoi, 2009, p. 244). While it is suspected that background anger may promote stress in youth sport participants, little research has been conducted to directly assess its effects (Omli, LaVoi, & Wiese-Bjornstal, 2008; Omli & LaVoi, 2009). The purpose of this project was to assess the perceptions and consequences of parental background anger in youth ice hockey from the players' perspective utilizing the background anger framework of Cummings and Cummings (1988). Two studies were conducted to assess player perceptions of parental background anger. The first utilized a mixed methods design to examine youth perceptions and emotional responses associated with angry dad, angry mom, and fighting dads types of background anger. Participants were adolescent ice hockey players (94 male & 99 female). Players were sampled from USA Hockey's Advance 15 camps who were all born in 1994; making them 15 years old at the time of the study. Exact age was not taken because of the homogeneity of the sample. The Advance 15 camps represent the 102 best male and 102 best female players in the state and are tryout-based camps. Players were asked about experienced situations that were similar to one of three pictures, each depicting a different parental background anger type. Results indicated that female players perceived significantly more background anger in their games than did their male peers regardless of background anger type. Females also responded to background anger with significantly lower confidence and encouragement and greater frustration than their male peers. The angry dad background anger type created significantly greater frustration and lesser encouragement than the fighting dads background anger type, regardless of gender. Player responses indicated that the different types of background anger have different primary causes. These causes included parent behavior, referee call, player behavior, parent personality, player performance and coach behavior. The second study utilized a before and after quantitative design to assess player perceptions of and consequences to parental background anger. One hundred and thirteen Bantam male and 124 U14 female Minnesota Hockey players were sampled such that player perceptions of the normal game experience were compared to those of an experienced event where one of three types of parental background anger occurred. Results indicated that when background anger occurs there are significant detrimental changes to player emotions, performance, fun, and intensity. All of these changes were contrary to the desired outcomes of a youth sport experience. Females and males responded similarly but with different magnitude to background anger, such that females experienced greater detrimental changes in emotions, performance, and fun than males. Males experienced a greater detrimental change in intensity than did females. Female and male players perceived the causes of background anger similarly and results suggest that the different background anger types have significantly different causes. Overall these studies support the contention that parental background anger is detrimental to the health and well-being of youth ice hockey players. Results lend support to the use of the Cummings and Cummings (1988) model of background anger in the home and the use of this model in sport (Omli et al., 2008; Omli & LaVoi, 2009) as well as the new model of background anger in sport (LaVoi, Omli, & Wiese-Bjornstal, 2012). If parents continue to engage in the creation of background anger, their children will feel worse, play worse, have less fun, and play with less intensity. Downstream this could have negative effects on participation, skill development, and advancement in the sport.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2012. Major: Kinesiology. Advisor: Diane M. Wiese-Bjornstal. 1 computer file (PDF); xi, 185 pages, appendices A-K.

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Winges, James Brian. (2012). Athlete perceptions and consequences of parental background anger in youth ice hockey. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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