Parental stressors in professional youth football academies: a qualitative investigation of specialising stage parents

In order to improve our understanding of parental experiences in elite youth sport, the present study investigated parental stressors within the context of professional football (i.e. soccer) academies in Great Britain. Focusing upon the specialising stage of athlete development, a total of 41 parents attended six focus groups exploring their experiences of stressors during the early and later phases of the specialising stage. A hierarchical thematic content analysis led to four dimensions of parental stressor: academy processes and quality of communication, matchrelated factors, sport-family role conflict and school support and education issues. Parents across the entire specialising phase identified uncertainty of their son’s retention in the academy and quality of communication with staff as significant ongoing stressors. Unfamiliar coaching and match practices emerged as stressors for early stage parents, whereas the management of school and academy demands was most prominent for later stage parents. Their experiences suggested that the management of parents’ expectations for their child in an academy and the ability for a professional club to communicate its ‘developmental’ and ‘nondevelopmental’ practices might be central to parental support and well-being. Strategic implications for practitioners, coaches and organisations are presented with these findings in mind.