Elite athletes? Or elite parenting?
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 14:14 authored by Heidi Maguire
Organised sport is a prominent part of contemporary Western childhood, with many families scheduling their leisure time around their children’s sporting endeavours. Children who appear talented in a particular sport and find themselves competing at a representative level require a level of commitment and dedication from their parents that matches their own. The amount of time, money and energy parents are willing to invest in their children’s elite sporting endeavours can be quite substantial; the reasons behind the investment can also be quite complex. This ethnographic study of an Under 13 boys’ elite football team conducted over the course of a season was undertaken with a view to capturing the experience of parenting an elite footballer in Australia. The study documents the social support structures behind the players and questions the innateness of their talent, exposes the hidden costs in the social production of skill, and explores the identities, relationships and conflicts that emerge in the elite youth football setting. Parents play a crucial role in every aspect of the talent identification and development process, be it in introducing their children to a sport, valuing their sporting ability, funding the professional development of their talent, and logistically and emotionally facilitating their realisation of expert performance. A child’s performance on the football pitch was very much a reflection of his parental support. However, a parent’s dedication to their child’s talent was rarely just about the sport.