Loughborough University
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Power, politics and professional contracts: an exploration of parenting in elite youth football

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posted on 2014-11-28, 11:50 authored by Nicola J. Clarke
The purpose of this research was to explore the phenomenon of parenting in English elite youth football and provide a rich, detailed description and nuanced interpretation of parenting in this highly challenging and competitive culture. The research positioned parenting in youth sport as a dynamic, culturally-situated process, constituted through interaction with significant others. This allowed for an in-depth understanding of how parenting was experienced in elite youth football that included children s accounts of their interaction with parents. Using a phenomenological methodology, research was undertaken in three English professional football clubs to explore how parenting in elite youth football was experienced as lived. Parents of players registered to an elite youth football academy, players aged between 8 and 17 years and academy coaches participated in interviews. Participant observation was used to complement interview data. Embracing multi-perspectivalism (Kellner, 1995), multiple qualitative analytical techniques were used to explore data from different epistemological perspectives, providing sensitivity to the variation and subtlety of participants experiences. The findings from four empirical, qualitative research studies are presented. Firstly, an exploration of the experience of being a parent of an elite youth footballer described how parents were socialised into the academy culture, and experienced a change in identity and a heightened sense of responsibility to facilitate their child s football development. Secondly, an examination of elite youth footballers experience of interaction with their parents demonstrated how players experienced their body as an object to be scrutinised and assessed when watched by parents, experienced conflict with parents from within a power relation, and ascribed meaning to their interaction with parents in relation to their goal of becoming a successful academy footballer. Thirdly, an idiographic analysis of parents and players individual and dyadic experiences of parent-player interactions highlighted how relationships were constituted by; relations with other family members; an embodied sense of closeness; the temporal significance of football transitions; and gender and power relations. Finally, an analysis of coaches accounts of the parent-coach relationship in elite youth football demonstrated how parent-coach interactions occurred within an imbalanced power relation, which centred on establishing the rights to be responsible for player development. Together, these findings present a complex picture of parenting in elite youth football, as an embodied, temporal and culturally-situated experience, constituted through interaction and power relations between parents, players, coaches and academies. This research highlights the importance of conceptualising parenting in youth sport as a social, culturally-embedded process and supports the need to include children in research about issues that affect them. Extending this further, adopting a theoretical perspective that allows for the contextual power relations to be examined can further enhance understanding of parenting in youth sport. Finally, this research recommends that listening to and valuing the experiences of participants in the elite youth football culture, alongside open discussion and critical reflection upon academy practices, may have the greatest potential for enhancing the experiences of parents, players and coaches.





  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences


© Nicola Jane Clarke

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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  • en

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