18 SES 04, Political Landscapes in Physical Education and Sports Coaching
Grassroots soccer is a major socialisation environment in which young members of society experiences situations and processes of social cohesion, inclusion and exclusion, solidarity and individualism, joy and anger, success and setbacks. In Sweden, the context of this paper, approximately 250 000 children and young people play organized soccer. National sport policy and UN Convention on the Rights of the Child regulates the activities in promoting values such as solidarity, equal value of all players, equal right to participate, learn and develop. Whether this kind of socio-political culture, and political socialisation processes it involves, exist is however an empirical question. A ‘hot’ situation in which values are set in motion is the competitive game revealing which players and what actually counts. In this situation, the coach has a vital role. Thus, the aim of the paper is to contribute knowledge about the political socialisation dimension in competitive games of grassroots youth soccer and the socio-political consequences of coaching behavior.
- What political norms could be identified in coaching behaviors?
- What are the socio-political consequences for the educational environment?
The paper contributes knowledge about, pay attention to and visualizes the political dimension of competitive grassroots youth soccer games and its socio-political consequences for the educational environment.
Up to date, we do not know that much, empirically and theoretically, about grassroots youth soccer (O’Gorman 2016). For example when it comes to processes of socialisation, the relationship between players and coaches, experiences of the players and the consequences for their social, political and cultural identities (cf. Pitchford et al. 2004). Youth soccer is in several ways constituted by socialisation but so far research has not been explicit in analyzing and describing these processes as political even if it exist examples such as the tension between loyalty and success (Kooistra and Kooistras 2016), allocation of playing time (Lorentzen 2017), team selection (Lindgren et al. 2017) and gendered socialisation (Eliasson 2011). In these processes the role of the coach is vital. Especially when it comes to influencing players’ moral judgement, action and character, sportspersonship and fair play attitudes, shaping the motivational climate, team behaviour and identity, fostering psychological needs, emotions and well-being, team cohesion and empowerment (Ommundsen et al. 2003; Boixadós et al. 2004; Jowett and Chaundy 2004; Côte and Gilbert 2009; García-Calvo et al. 2014; Appleton and Duda 2016 etc.).
Situational political socialisation is used to understand the process in which individuals adapt to, learn about or change the political culture of their community. Political socialisation is viewed as subjective, situational and relational, dynamic and contingent, participation and action oriented, an observable communication and meaning-making practice (Andersson 2015). Within this framework, aspects of the political theory of Chantal Mouffe (2013) is combined with research based on self-determination theory and achievement goal theory (cf. Ommundsen et al. 2003; Boixadôs et al. 2004; García-Calvo et al. 2014; Appleton and Duda 2016; Fenton et al. 2017 etc.) in order to analyze and understand the educational environment and political socialisation process in competitive youth soccer games. Consequently, two different approaches are conceptualized and used. The agonistic coaching approach (logic: do your best to win the game) mainly using task-involvement, mastery-orientation, empowerment, social support and autonomy-supportive characteristics viewing opponents as co-creators and competition as striving with (not against) others. The antagonistic coaching approach (logic: do whatever it takes to win the fight) mainly uses ego-involvement, disempowering and controlling characteristics viewing opponents as enemies to beat and competition as a demonstration of normative ability and a striving against others.
Political socialisation is explored using data from a two year ongoing research project, Educating for fair play? Child and youth competitive soccer games and the behavior of coaches and parents. The project explore coaching and parent behavior in three two-section (girls and boys) clubs in the west of Sweden viewing the game as an educational environment in fostering children and young people (aged 10 to 16) as players and citizens. Data was collected using qualitative game observations in 12 teams, player and referee interviews and surveys. In this paper, using 24 observations of competitive games (league and tournament) and 24 player pair interviews (24 girls and 24 boys), the perspectives of the players are in focus letting them give first hand experiences of coaching behavior, what they consider good and bad behavior and its consequences. A political norm analysis divided into two phases is used to analyze the micro-political practice. Political norms serve to organise teams of individuals and help them to choose between conflicting alternatives and concerns. Norms – i.e. relatively consistent, explicit or implicitly agreed action indicative units that instruct an individual to behave and act in specific ways, based on what is considered valuable and preferable in a specific situation and context – are political when they deal with decisions about and the organisation of human togetherness, incompatible options, feelings and affections of inclusion/exclusion and divisions between ‘us’ and ‘them’ (cf. Mouffe 2013). In phase I – contextualization and behavioral logic – the agonistic and antagonistic coaching approach is used in order to identify the main behavioural logic in the educational coaching climate of the competitive game. I.e. data is ordered and roughly categorized using the characteristics of the agonistic and antagonistic coaching approach. The behavioural logic of the coaching approach is also used (in phase II) to categorize and explain certain types of political norms and its socio-political consequences for the educational environment. In phase II – participants’ actions and experiences – the political norms are identified in action (and conversation) using four methodological concepts from the Practical Epistemology Analyses (PEA) (e.g. Wickman and Östman 2002; Lidar et al. 2006): relations, stand fast, gap and reactualisation. Using these concepts, the entire event or situation in which individuals encounter their environment is analysed in order to determine what happens when individuals transact in it, thus revealing the norms.
The expected outcomes are only preliminary and very roughly addressed, based on an initial use of phase I in the analysis. According to all players loyalty and belonging to the team is far more important than winning games. The players finds it joyful and meaningful when coaching is focused on their team –helping the players in their learning, giving positive reinforcement of behaviors and formative feedback. This is made explicit in the actions of the coaches who often reinforces good performances and attempts by the players. According to the players, and most observations of the games, all players are included regardless of ability. The players, in all interviews, addresses that everybody should be equally valued and that all players deserves the same participation opportunities. There is, however, a tendency for an increase in competition-orientation and use of antagonistic coaching behavior due to players’ age and gender. In teams of teenage boys coaching has been more focused on winning the game and decreasing playing time for specific players. The phenomenon of selection and exclusion due to the skills of the player are also emphasized in tournament games. However, allocation of playing time is a difficult question, even for the players when discussing the relation between players’ team effort (participating in training, hard work in the game etc.) and the right to play regardless of team effort. In all games observed it becomes obvious that the players act in relation to the actions of the coach. E.g. if coaching is focused on complaining on referees decisions and opponents behaviors it is also legitimized for the players to do so. An observed consequences of this specific behavior is decreased team performance. According to the players the role of the coach is crucial for their well-being, learning and development.
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