When sports psychologist Travis Dorsch set about studying the effect of parental spending on young athletes, he expected to find a positive correlation. After all, recent research suggests that young athletes benefit from parental support. But his study, just completed, found that greater parental spending is associated with lower levels of young-athlete enjoyment and motivation. "When parental sports spending goes up, it increases the likelihood either that the child will feel pressure or that the parent will exert it," says Dr. Dorsch, a Utah State University professor and former professional football player. The study adds to a small but growing body of research suggesting that parents ought to temper their investments in youth athletics. The problem, at root, isn't financial: It is that big expenditures tend to elevate parental expectations. "The more parents do, the more they expect a return on their investment," possibly reducing their chances of a favorable outcome, says Daniel Gould, director of Michigan State University's Institute for the Study of Youth Sports.