Pushy parents risk damaging their children's health if they link affection to sporting success, the national medical director of the English Institute of Sport has warned.
Rod Jaques, whose organisation works with elite athletes, said mums and dads face a 'delicate balance' between supporting playing field ambitions and pushing their children too far. He said that a parent's love can appear 'conditional' on the child achieving sporting success which can then lead to youngsters developing eating disorders or inventing injuries.
Dr Jaques told the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference: 'I think it is a tough one when a parent comes into the consultation who is both the coach and parent. It is a potential for conflict of interest there.
'It's a very delicate balance between encouragement and support for that child, and its potential for being a mentor or a tormentor of the child I think is really quite real.
'It is often anecdotally said that behind every injured child is a parent athlete wanting to get out.
'Australians have gone a bit further and called this the ugly parent syndrome and we probably have witnessed this on the side of our rugby fields or football fields of the bawling parent, not just at the referee but at the child on the field of play.
'This love for their child should not be conditional on results and unfortunately it sometimes is.'
The delegates also heard that private school students are more likely to become Olympic athletes than those children from state schools, as Dr Jaques explained that 34 per cent of the Great Britain team at the Beijing games were educated privately, with almost half of Britain's medals being won by privately educated athletes:
'For the state sector kid to make a success of their training they have to go an extra mile to do it. Mum and dad have to be that much more co-operative, mum and dad have to access sports clubs outside of the school setting and have the time and inclination to do that. It's a tough ask.'
What do you think?
Do you know parents who push their kids too hard at sports?