The relationship between family and sport in the socialisation of children : A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy at Lincoln University

Stojanovska, Aleksandra
Fields of Research
ANZSRC::441005 Social theory
Driven by the goal of providing the best for the child, both parents and coaches bring different perspectives to sport. For a child involved in sport, parents and coaches fulfil important influential roles. Yet surprisingly, there has been very little research examining the way these two parties’ function and work together, even though both can be seen as prominent agents of socialisation within sport. Therefore, this thesis explores the relationship between parents and coaches in the non-elite sporting context, a context which has received far less attention than high performance. Inspired by an interest in the relationship between primary (family-based) socialisation and secondary (outside of family) socialisation, this study utilised the approach of social constructionism as defined by Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann (1966). This approach was adopted to understand the roles of parents and coaches within the process of socialisation, and the capability of sport to build and maintain the social identity of children. A purposeful sample encompassing parents, coaches, and children was selected from sport clubs in Christchurch, New Zealand, representing children participating in the four most popular New Zealand team sports: rugby union, football (soccer), basketball, and netball. A total of 43 semi-structured interviews were conducted in person or over the phone with parents, coaches and children aged 10 - 12. Key findings indicated a positively characterised dyadic coach-parent relationship at the non-elite level, with parents and coaches in agreement that the role of parents is to support the work of the coach. Parents were found to support the Great Sport Myth (GSM) through strongly emphasising many positive benefits their children received from sport and were indirectly socialised into ‘not interfering’ with the work of the coach. This agreement on the importance of sport for the socialisation of children meant that there was little conflict between primary and socialisation, with similar norms and behaviours being reinforced in the family and sporting contexts, including a belief that sport should be fun for children without overemphasising winning. The inclusion of the children’s voices also indicated a contrast between how the coaches’ described their coaching style compared with how children perceived it. These findings are significant for highlighting the complexity of children’s sport. On the one hand, this thesis shows the lack of parental control often found in elite sport can have roots at this early competitive stage, yet on the other hand, the socialisation of parents and consistency of expectations between coaches and parents also creates very positive experiences for children.
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