The car ride home: Exploring the content and structure of parent-child sport conversations


Past research has examined the experiences of youth athletes and their parents (Holt, Tamminen, Black, Mandigo, & Fox, 2009; Lauer, Gould, Roman, & Pierce, 2010), as well as preferences of athletes for parental involvement in sport (Knight, Neely, & Holt, 2011; Knight & Holt, 2014). However, researchers have not examined the structure of parent-athlete communication surrounding sport practices and competitions. The purpose of this study was to examine parents' and athletes' experiences of conversations during the 'car ride home' after games and practices. Specifically, this research aimed to examine both the content and structure of parent-athlete sport conversations. Seventeen pairs of parents and adolescent athletes participated in individual semi-structured interviews. Data were analyzed using thematic and structural narrative analysis (Reissman, 2008) to examine the content and the structure of parent-athlete sport conversations, and to explore how participants described these conversations within the context of a research interview. Results pertained to: (a) the content of parent-child sport conversations (e.g., positive and negative feedback; performance advice; motivational comments); (b) the structure of parent-child sport conversations (e.g., parent vs. child-initiated conversations; conversation length; conversational techniques including questioning, direct statements, and topic shifts); (c) the impact of parent-athlete conversations (affective, performance, and motivational outcomes); and (d) structural features of participants' descriptions of sport conversations (use of rationalization, extreme comparisons, contextualization). These findings are discussed in relation to the way participants performed the roles of 'sport parent' and 'athlete' within research interviews and we also discuss implications for qualitative youth sport research.