Exploring coaches' perceptions of an exemplary recreational youth basketball program


Recreational sport represents a unique youth sport context which places an increased emphasis on fun and enjoyment in comparison to competition and winning. However, even though recreational sport appears to be a fertile environment in which to facilitate positive youth development (PYD), limited research has examined this notion in detail (Holt & Jones, 2008). It has been suggested that research with real-world community programs is needed to help identify characteristics of sustainable and effective programs that promote PYD (Petitpas, Cornelius, Van Raalte, & Jones, 2005). Thus, the purpose of the present study was to gain an understanding of coaches’ experiences in a popular recreational youth basketball program which has a reputation in the local community for having a positive developmental influence on young athletes. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with twelve coaches (n=6 male and n=6 female) which focused on their coaching backgrounds and perceptions of the basketball program. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and were subjected to a thematic content analysis procedure (Braun & Clarke, 2006).  Results highlighted numerous factors that the coaches believed contributed to the program’s success. More specifically, the coaches’ responses revealed four major themes: (1) inclusiveness and diversity; (2) balanced approach to fun and competition; (3) volunteerism and long-term contribution; (4) family and inter-generational participation. The practical implications for program administrators, coaches, and athletes of this unique type of youth sport context will be discussed and findings will be considered in reference to the PYD and youth sport literature. Recommendations for future research will be put forth to help improve our understanding of this salient yet understudied youth sport context.