Exploring the Role of the Coach in Fostering Positive Youth Development within an Elite Sport Context
Preston, Cassidy James Thomas
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Youth sport is considered an ideal context to foster positive youth development (PYD) through an asset-building approach (Holt et al., 2017; Larson, 2000), yet researchers have questioned whether the pursuit of performance success within elite youth sport may hinder the pursuit of PYD (e.g., Fraser-Thomas & Strachan, 2015). Given extensive research underlining the important role of coaches in fostering PYD through sport (Holt et al., 2017 for review), research is needed to understand the experiences of elite youth sport coaches facilitating PYD within a performance-oriented environment (Fraser-Thomas & Strachan, 2015). Guided by Holt and colleagues (2017) model of PYD through sport, the purpose of this dissertation was to examine the role of the coach in fostering PYD within an elite youth sport context. In manuscript one, I drew upon autoethnographic research methods (Ellis & Bochner, 2000) to explore my experience coaching a Canadian elite minor hockey team, using a PYD approach to foster personal development and performance success. In manuscript two I used similar methodologies to examine my interactions with parents, and how these potentially fostered athlete PYD. Manuscript three explored coaches pursuit of PYD within elite youth sport more broadly through ethnographic research methods (Patton, 2005), as I acted as an assistant coach to four purposefully sampled teams for the duration of one season. Manuscript four examined the content of Hockey Canadas (2016) High Performance 1 coach education manual with specific attention to interpersonal coaching approaches that facilitate PYD. Collectively, findings indicate elite youth sport coaches were able to foster a PYD climate within a performance-oriented environment; however I/they experienced challenges and underlying tensions, particularly in relation to the coach-parent relationship, within a performance-oriented environment. Findings raise questions regarding the overall sport structure of AAA minor hockey in Canada, given the constant tension for coaches striving to attain performance success while balancing the goal of athletes PYD. My shared overall insights of my experiences may evoke other elite youth coaches to reflect on their coaching experiences and practices regarding fostering PYD through sport. Findings are further discussed in terms of contributions to the PYD literature, and future research directions.