UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Parent relational processes with coaches and athletes in early specialization sport Wall, Jessie Marie


In early specialization sports, where athletes may reach elite levels as young as 13 or 14 years old, parents and coaches (both individually, and in combination) play an important role in supporting the development and overall quality of experience of youth athletes. Despite a growing focus on interpersonal relationships in sport, research examining parent-coach and parent-athlete interactions is relatively limited, particularly when compared to the coach-athlete dyad. Situated within an interpretivist paradigm, the purpose of this dissertation was to advance understanding of the relational processes of parents with coaches and athletes in the context of Canadian competitive figure skating. Two studies were conducted towards this end. The first study was an interpretive description with the purpose of understanding the nature of the coach-parent relationship. Data were collected using individual semi-structured interviews with 12 mothers and 12 coaches. Most participants described positive experiences of the parent-coach relationship, albeit with the presence of conflict. Participants’ descriptions of their experiences clustered around three configurations of the coach-parent dyad. These corresponded to (a) collaborative, (b) coach-athlete centric, and (c) contractual configurations, with each reflecting different views about the nature of the relationship. These configurations are discussed considering three prominent themes: expertise, communication, and trust. The second study was an instrumental case study design with five parent-athlete (athlete Mage = 11.40 years) dyads. Contextual action theory and action project method were used to describe how parents and athletes jointly navigated the transition to (or not to) higher levels of training and commitment in figure skating. Data were collected longitudinally over 10 months and included video-recorded conversations, video feedback-supported interviews, and biweekly telephone monitoring. Parent-athlete dyads’ joint projects were grouped based on three common themes that corresponded to negotiating school, sport, and extra-curricular commitments, progressing towards skating goals, and maintaining a developmental focus. These joint projects were embedded in the broader parent-child relationship project. Overall, these studies revealed important aspects about parent-coach and parent-athlete relationships in skating and offer general insights for the study of parenting in sport. When taken together, the findings highlight the role of parents in promoting youth psychosocial development in sport.

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