It's sort of hard to draw the line. Parental influence in the junior Australian football experience: The voices of children, parents and coaches

Author: Samuel Kim Elliott

Elliott, Samuel Kim, 2014 It's sort of hard to draw the line. Parental influence in the junior Australian football experience: The voices of children, parents and coaches, Flinders University, School of Education

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In Australia, sport remains a popular vehicle for physical activity accumulation and a culturally significant aspect of our nation's identity. Sport is widely associated with a range of physical, social and psychological health benefits in children. The importance of keeping children involved in sport is therefore imperative to encouraging physically active lifestyles throughout childhood and into young adulthood. Among other influential factors such as coaches and peers, the role of parents in this regard is crucial. However, a persistent litany of poor parental behaviour in the Australia news media has contributed to growing discussions about the influence of parents in children's sport. According to a majority of these largely unchallenged reports, junior Australian football represents a central context for the emergence of what has been coined by the media as the 'ugly parent syndrome.' In spite of this, few studies have investigated this socio-cultural aspect of children's sport in the junior Australian football setting. Furthermore, there is very little evidence in the literature of research that has explored this issue from the perspectives of those most intimately involved in the sport experience; that is, parents, children and coaches. Using a collective-case study research design and a sociological framework (social constructionism), the primary aim of this inquiry was to understand how parents influence the junior Australian football experience. Twenty focus groups and 11 individual interviews with 102 participants were conducted to explore the contemporary influence of parents across remote, regional and metropolitan South Australia. Four dominant themes emerged, including 'promoting participation', 'game day', 'the contemporary coach' and 'football culture'. The findings from this study provide a rich account of the sport-parenting concept in junior Australian football, revealing that numerous examples of positive parental influence exist. However, the findings also indicate that beyond merely inappropriate behaviour during competition, parents also have a high potential to negatively influence the overall sport experience. Drawing upon social constructionism, an analysis of the findings indicates that there are clear social and cultural imperatives that play a role in reinforcing, maintaining and perpetuating various levels of parental influence in the junior Australian football context. The influence of broader society and culture, as well as the historical construction of Australian football, plays a role in normalising and acculturating sport-oriented behaviours and attitudes that do not necessarily enhance the participatory experience. The findings of this thesis have clear implications for sport policy, professional development, and the delivery of organised sport programs.

Keywords: Sport-parenting,Australian football,youth sport,parental behaviour

Subject: Education thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2014
School: School of Education
Supervisor: Professor Murray Drummond