The car ride to and from competition: Exploring parent-athlete interactions in competitive youth sport


As part of the physical youth sport environment, athletes are directly exposed to verbal and non-verbal feedback from important social agents, including parents (Fredricks & Eccles, 2005). It is important to note that athlete interactions with parents are not limited to public settings, and often occur in more private contexts such as at home or during transportation to and from sport. The car ride to and from competition represents a salient setting during which parents and athletes socialize and interact in enjoyable and unenjoyable ways (Tamminen et al., 2017). As such, researchers have called for real-time audio in this setting to capture these athlete-parent interactions. To address this, we used an ambulatory ecological assessment tool known as the Electronically Activated Recorder (EAR) to non-obtrusively capture interactions between athletes and their parents over the course of a 3-day competitive hockey tournament. A total of 91 audio files were gathered from the car. Conversations were inductively coded using thematic analysis through a critical realist lens (Braun et al., 2016; Fletcher, 2017). Higher order themes included the opportunity to a) discuss other social agents (e.g., coaches and teammates), b) provide goal-specific information, c) deliver performance-related feedback, and d) provide organizational support to the athlete. While preliminary in nature, these findings present insight into the nature of parent-athlete interactions as they travel before and following a hockey game. Further, the EAR appears to be an effective tool to generate real-time audio that otherwise would be subject to measurement bias.