Coping with the cut: Athletes' and parents' experiences with deselection in competitive youth sport


An understanding of how athletes and parents cope with being cut from youth sport may help to reduce some of the negative consequences associated with deselection. The overall purpose of the study was to examine competitive female adolescent athletes' and their parents' experiences of deselection from provincial sport teams. Three research questions were addressed: (1) How do athletes cope with being deselected? (2) What role do parents play in helping their daughters cope with being deselected? (3) How do parents themselves cope with the deselection process? Participants were 14 female adolescent athletes (M age=14.6 years, SD=1.3) who were deselected from provincial soccer, basketball, volleyball or hockey teams and 14 of their parents (9 mothers. 5 fathers; M age=45.0 years, SD=5.8). Data were collected through semi-structured interviews with these athlete-parent dyads and analyzed using interpretive phenomenological analysis (Smith, Flowers, & Larkin, 2009). Results revealed that athletes used a range of coping strategies to deal with the challenges of deselection. They lowered their expectations prior to the try-out, used positive self-talk, and talked to their parents. Some athletes practiced harder to 'prove the coaches wrong.' Parents helped athletes cope by 'consoling first, talking later.' They listened to their daughters, put things in perspective, and tried to rationalize decisions. Parents themselves coped by talking to other parents, their spouses, and seeking validation from others. These findings identify specific coping strategies athletes and parents use individually, and how athletes and parents work together to cope with deselection.

Acknowledgments: SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship, Sport Canada