Gender and sports: parents' influence on their children's perceptions of sports



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Texas Tech University


Through the years there has been an increase of women's participation in sports; however, the increase in participation does not include an increase in types of acceptable sports in which females can participate. In the United States, certain sports are deemed undesirable for women and some sports are considered unsuitable for men (Matteo, 1996). Some research has looked at the variety of roles and the impact gender and sex play in the area of sports. These different studies examine the differences in treatment, availability, and emotional impact of sports for men and women which lead to the inequalities existing in sports. These studies analyze issues such as which sports women are more likely to participate in over men, for example sports that are feminine and do not involve heavy objects or are contact sports (Kane& Snyder, 1989); whether the sport enhances or decreases a woman's femininity because women are not likely to be seen favorably if they are participating in a sport that decreases their femininity (Pedersen & Kono, 1990); and gender differences in the burnout associated with coaching sports, where women bum out quicker than men because they feel lower personal accomplishment and more emotionally exhausted (Caccese & Mayerberg, 1984).

Coaching and gender is another topic frequently addressed in studies. For example, studies which discovered female coaches are expected to follow a traditional role whhout the deviations that are granted to male coaches, or studies which found young athletes and athletic administrators hold stereotypical beliefs that do not benefit female coaches, or examined why there area greater number of men coaching overall (Eitzen & Pratt, 19&9; Hasbrook, Hart, Mathes, & True, 1990; Hart, Hasbrook, & Mathes, 1986; Parkhouse & Williams, 1986). In addition, across all university sports, men have^more opportunities and eligibility of scholarship aid than women (Staurowsky, 1998). The topics explored in the previously mentioned studies are examples of problems for people participating in athletics. However, there is a question which researchers have been trying to answer: if sports participation is based on gender differences, where does the definition of gender characteristics originate and who determines which sports are masculine and which sports are feminine? It is likely that these perceptions are formed early in life. Because of this account, it is important to explore the parents' role in their children's learning of sports.