Loughborough University
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The coach-parent-athlete triangle: an investigation in age group swimming

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posted on 2014-07-07, 10:51 authored by Diana Bass
This thesis analyses the relationships that exist between the coach, the parent and the athlete within the context of age-group swimming. The interest in this area grew from the researcher's own experiences as a swimmer, a parent of swimmers and a swimming coach together with the underlying belief that the three members or what Byrne (1993) terms the 'sporting triangle' approach swimming experiences with different needs and wants. If other members of this sporting triangle fail to recognise or understand these needs then conflict may arise which could detract from the positive sporting experiences of the young swimmer. Because of the dearth of literature concerning relationships between all three members of this triad the literature review provides an overview of literature concerning the coach's, parent's and swimmers' roles and their relationships with one or more members of the sporting triangle. The importance of the context in which swimming takes place is also recognised and the age-group swimming structure within the United Kingdom is discussed. The research was carried out within two swimming clubs which were at participation level of competition. Within each club the field work involved observations followed by in-depth interviews with three swimmers and their parents together with the Chief Coach. The selection of the families was based around Hellstedt's (1987) model of the coach-parent-athlete triangle. Data were analysed using a grounded theory approach and Goffman's (1984) dramaturgical approach, alongside role theory and the notion of 'positioning' (Giddens, 1984; David and Harre, 1990) provided the basis for the reflexive pluralist methodology employed. The findings confirmed the complexity of the relationships within the triad together with the importance of the context in which social interaction takes place. The continual tension that exists between structure and agency was highlighted and seen as something that must be both understood (theoretically) and addressed (empirically) in any attempt to understand social interaction. The resulting data also confirmed that members of the 'sporting triangle' do not come to a swimming situation value free but bring with them a variety of expectations, needs and wants. As a result the need for strong lines of communication between all three members of the triad is recognised. Finally recommendations are made for policy and practice which it is hoped will ensure that young athletes' sporting experiences are positive.



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences


© Di Bass

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

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  • en