The Vicious Circle

Information/graphic originally retrieved from FA England: E:Learning > The Psychology Award Level 1

As coaches and parents, you should understand what motivates children to play football. These motivations are usually quite different from those of adults. If a coach takes the time to explain to parents and players what kind of comments are appropriate and why then young players have a better chance of flourishing.

  • Sometimes a vicious circle can form when a parent exhibits negative influencers.

Two different escape routes.

  • Parent focuses on results:

The parent becomes fixated on results. They then transfer this fixation to their child. The child wants the results to go well so that their parent will be pleased with them.

Escape Route: Try to influence the parent at this point in the circle.

  • Identity and share why children chose to participate in sport
  • Provide appropriate statements/comments that they could say
  • Demonstrate positive behaviors they could display
  • Share what type of question they could ask their child after a game?
  • Results are poor:

Sure enough, the parent reacts badly to the result.

They become frustrated. Worse still, they become critical of the child, making them responsible for the result.



  • Child is Frustrated:

The child picks up on their parent’s frustration.

The Child can become frustrated too as they don’t get the praise they craved from the parent.

  • Child strengths focus on winning:

The child may will strength their focus on winning to the exclusion of other things.

Here, the child is trying to ensure that they get praise from their parent. It means that they must win, so be it.

Escape route: Try to influence the child at this point in the circle.

  • What other ways can we identify successes from competing?
  • Why do they participate in sport?
  • As coaches, we can provide individual/team targets for games.
  • Discuss what attribute they’d like to improve on?
  • Get players to highlight we they did well in the game/practice i.e. I passed well or I tried a new skill.
  • Enjoyment is impaired:

Level of enjoyment in the child can drop

This may reach the point the child stops playing the game altogether.


As a parent, it’s all too easy to impose adult values onto a child’s activity. Try to make sure that you don’t become overly concerned with winning and encourage your child to focus on things like the acquisition of skills instead.

Remember how strong your influence can be on your child. They will naturally tend to perpetuate your values, so the behaviours you exhibit around them should be ones you’d like them to display.


Copyright: FA England: E:Learning > The Psychology Award Level 1

The Sporting Influencer

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