Introduction. The present study investigates the characteristics of the environmental factors that influence the structure of sport amongst young people; alongside this, the study also attempts to describe the influential role of parents in the development of sporting talent; finally, the study emphasizes the significance of parents' educational beliefs concerning the acquisition of life-long social skills through participation in sport in demanding competitive environments. Material and
methods. 8 semi-structured interviews and 3 unstructured interviews were conducted among young people participating in a semi-professional club at national competitive level. A field diary was also collected. Results. Qualitative analysis revealed that: a) structural and organizational aspects, as well as the overall climate of the club, shape the behavior of young people in relation to social goals; b) parents play an important role as socializers in competitive environments; c) parents display a solid awareness of their own influence on the attitudes and behavior of young people. Conclusions. The findings highlight the important role of parents in sport participation in highly competitive environments. The study also shows contextual factors as predictors of the degree of youngsters' social and personal variables in performance levels. Implications for parental involvement in youth sport as well as future research directions are further discussed.
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