Coaches', parents', and peers' influence on the development and transfer of life skills learned through youth sport participation


Life skills development and transfer is a complex process influenced by multiple social agents. The purpose of this study was to gain an understanding of life skills adolescents may have learned through their participation in sport and the role social agents have in the attainment and transfer of life skills. In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with ten athletes (8 female, 2 male, Mage = 16.1 years, SD = 0.58) who competed at a provincial level or higher, and the parent most involved in their sport participation (8 mothers, 2 fathers, Mage = 48.0 years, SD = 5.16). Data were analyzed using an inductive thematic approach. Results suggested that interpersonal life skills (e.g., respect, communication) and intrapersonal life skills (e.g., work ethic, responsibility) were developed through sport participation. These life skills were predominantly learned and transferred through implicit processes influenced by coaches, parents, and peers. Parents provided opportunities for their children to develop and practice certain life skills, and their values and expectations influenced the type of life skills they learned. Similarly, coaches' team values and expectations demonstrated through role-modelling, and positive coach-athlete relationships, influenced and reinforced life skills learning and transfer. The most common explicit strategy used by parents and coaches was direct conversations about life skills and transfer in various contexts. Peers also influenced life skills development and transfer through interactions that allowed athletes to practice life skills. Findings highlight the multiple processes, influences, and contexts through which life skills are learned, transferred, and practiced.