Helpful or harmful? An investigation of how parents influence athlete role acceptance


Within the sport context, role acceptance refers to an athlete's willingness to fulfill responsibilities associated with his/her role (Benson et al., 2013). Recently, researchers have attempted to uncover some of the potential antecedents of role acceptance (Benson et al., 2013; Eys et al., in preparation). Through these investigations, coaches indicated that parents may play a part in the degree to which athletes accept their role. Therefore, the purpose of the present study was to explore in-depth how parents influence athlete role acceptance via the perspectives of multiple sport actors (e.g., parents, athletes, coaches). Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 19 participants (7 parents, 7 athletes, and 5 coaches) associated with a variety of interdependent sport teams. Following the interviews, participant responses were transcribed verbatim and subsequently analyzed using inductive analysis (Patton, 2002). Various themes/sub-themes emerged and were organized into a framework to describe parental characteristics (e.g., investment, sport competence, unrealistic expectations) and behaviours (e.g., supporting, undermining, intervening), as well as the consequences (e.g., athlete role acceptance, team and individual specific consequences) associated with parental sport involvement with regard to athlete role acceptance. As a secondary strategy, the themes were also combined and presented through the perspective of a parent using a composite vignette, a fictional representation that presented themes in a more relatable manner (Spalding & Phillips, 2007). Discussion focuses on several practical and theoretical implications including proposed changes to the way formal role development is studied through the Role Episode model (Kahn et al., 1964; Eys et al., 2005).