Examining the influence of athletes' punishment experiences on decisions to cease participation in competitive hockey


Unsupportive coaching behaviours, dislike for the coach, and conflicts with the coach have been cited by athletes as reasons for ceasing sport participation (Crane & Temple, 2015). It is suggested that another coaching behaviour – namely the use of punishment tactics – may contribute to negative sport experiences and perhaps extend to decisions to cease sport participation. This proposition is supported by a wealth of information on the consequences of punishment use in the parenting and education literature, such as loss of self-esteem, development of counter-productive behaviour, avoidance of a punitive adult, increased risk of poor mental health, erosion of relationships, and increased anxiety, anger, and fear (Durrant & Ensom, 2004). However, few researchers have examined the use of punishment in sport, empirically. This study examined athletes' experiences of punishment in competitive hockey and the potential influence of these experiences on their decisions to cease participation in the sport. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 10 former female and male competitive hockey athletes, 18-19 years of age. Data were analyzed using inductive thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006). Participant accounts revealed that yelling, benching, and physical conditioning exercises were forms of punishment experienced regularly throughout their youth hockey involvement. These punishment experiences reportedly had negative effects on the participants' perceived athletic worth, enjoyment and fun in hockey, interest in other activities, and their sport relationships. Findings are interpreted to suggest that punishment experiences contributed to athletes' decisions to cease participation in competitive hockey. Recommendations for future research and practice are suggested.