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Travis Dorsch

Travis Dorsch, PhD

Associate Professor

Curriculum Vitae TEDx Talk Families in Sport Lab


Dr. Travis E. Dorsch is an Associate Professor and Founding Director of the Families in Sport Lab in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Utah State University. He teaches undergraduate courses in lifespan development and human motivation and graduate courses in human development and quantitative and qualitative research methods. Having documented the impact of children’s youth sport participation on parents and families while pursuing his doctoral studies at Purdue University (Sport and Exercise Psychology), his current research includes a complementary focus on: (a) the role of youth sport participation on family relationships and family interaction; (b) evidence-based parent education in youth, adolescent, and early adult sport settings; and (c) the role of internal factors (e.g., motivation) and external factors (e.g., families and social contexts) on sport, physical activity, and recreational behavior. Outside of his work, Dr. Dorsch enjoys traveling, skiing, hiking, biking, and laughing with his wife Bree, daughter Josie, and son Bridger.


  • PhD in Sport & Exercise Psychology, Purdue University, 2013
  • MS in Sport & Exercise Psychology Purdue University, 2007
  • BA in Psychology, Purdue University, 2003

Research Interests

Ninety percent of North American youth participate in organized sport during childhood and/or adolescence. Parents are also active participants, exhibiting a range of involvement behaviors over the course of a child’s athletic development. As such, organized sport provides a common context for family interaction, whereby parent behavior can shape the child’s developmental experience and vice versa. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, youth sport is increasingly being driven by adults and is becoming less centered on the athletes who participate. As parents continue to invest a growing percentage of family resources into the athletic development and success of their children, the “appropriate” level of parental involvement in youth sport has become a polarizing cultural debate. This debate is significant because proper quality and quantity of parent involvement in extra-curricular activities has been linked to enhanced child outcomes including enjoyment and motivation.

The research my students and I are conducting is targeted at understanding the impact of family relationships and interactions on children’s participation in the fairly ubiquitous context of organized sport as well as the impact of that participation on dynamic family processes and developmental outcomes. We collect and analyze interview, focus group, survey, and observational data and interact with our participation in a wide range of sport, physical activity, and recreational settings.

Although extant research in the sport and family literatures illuminates developmentally appropriate parenting behaviors, researchers and practitioners have yet to systematically disseminate this information to parents. Therefore, there exists a critical need to provide parents an educational platform grounded in evidence-based principles of parenting in organized sport. With such programming, parents would be provided knowledge of optimal involvement strategies, potentially enhancing children’s developmental outcomes in organized sport. Our lab’s applied objective is to design, implement, and evaluate evidence-based education programs for parents at various levels of organized youth sport, ranging from recreational youth sport through elite intercollegiate competition. Our central hypothesis is that parents who are presented with such a program will modify their behavior so as to foster enhanced enjoyment and motivation for their children in sport. We base this hypothesis on past findings from the family and sport psychology literatures, as well as anecdotal reports in the popular media that convey children’s dissatisfaction with common parenting behaviors such as overinvolvement, negative communication, and pressuring behaviors.

I work with students who share my passion for families and sport and who aim to produce high quality research that can be translated to the real world. Specifically, I wish to mentor and collaborate with motivated individuals who strive to understand and enhance the impact of family relationships and interactions on children’s sport participation as well as the impact of that sport participation on family processes and outcomes.

The Families in Sport Lab is full for Fall 2020, but are keen to have conversations with graduate students wanting to apply for Fall 2021 admission or beyond.