Make room adults, there's a new support system in town: The role of external assets for positive development in university sport


Gould and Carson (2008) called for qualitative research examining the underlying mechanisms related to how positive development occurs through sport. The purpose of this study was to identify the key agents, or external assets, responsible for university student-athletes' acquisition of internal assets, through the lens of student-athletes (Petitpas et al., 2005). Semi-structured open-ended interviews were conducted with fifteen Canadian university athletes (5 male, 10 female; Mage = 22, range = 17-26). Data were analyzed using an inductive thematic approach (Braun & Clarke, 2006). Athletes identified "other athletes", the "head coach", the "coaching staff", and their "parents" as the external assets influencing their development. Results demonstrate the direct and indirect influences affiliated with each external asset. Athletes identified "other athletes" as having the greatest direct influence on their personal development. Further, athlete emphasized the indirect nature of their "head coaches" influence. Finally, athletes felt they (i.e., "self as agent") contributed the most to their own development in the context of university sport, noting a trial-by-fire process where they learned from their own mistakes. Our findings provide a preliminary summary of the external assets responsible for athletes' acquisition of internal assets through their participation in university sport. Further, our results suggest that the direct role of adults may be overstated when it comes to facilitating positive development in emerging adult sport cohorts.

Acknowledgments: This research was supported by a Joseph Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship awarded to the first author