Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Exercise and Sport Sciences

Major Professor

Joy T. DeSensi

Committee Members

Allison D. Anders, Jeffrey T. Fairbrother, Leslee A. Fisher


Sport participation is a significant aspect in many people’s lives. The experiences they accumulate in sport are shaped by a variety of factors. A combination of personal factors (e.g., demographics), social factors (e.g., socializing sources and the support they provide), and structural factors (e.g., costs and accessible programs) uniquely shape each individual’s experience. Since a variety of factors can shape that experience, it is useful to examine perceptions of the factors were significant in the creation of an individual’s participation opportunities and experiences in sport.

The purpose of this study was threefold: (a) to gain insight into the personal, social, and structural factors participants perceived were significant on their sport participation experiences throughout various stages of their lives; (b) to gain insight into the personal, social, and structural factors participants perceived were significant upon their children’s sport experiences; and (c) to illustrate differences that exist among participants’ own and their children’s sport experiences. Eleven participants were involved in this study. Participants had firsthand experience in an organized sport during their youth and/or adolescence. Participants also had at least one child under the age of 13 who was active in an organized sport at the time of data collection. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews. Variety in participants’ gender, race, age, household income, education, and occupation were present.

Difference in participants’ and their children’s sport experiences emerged and were reported in five themes. Those themes are: Sources of Socialization, (b) Gendered Constructions Shaping Sport Experiences, (c) Parental Presence in Youth Sport, (d) Self-confidence and Skill, and (e) Structural Constraints upon Participation. These themes reflect variance in the sport experiences among this group of participants and their perceptions of their own and their children’s experiences.

The framework of this study utilized descriptive and hermeneutical inquiry. The descriptive element was expressed through a realist approach that relied on information learned from the participants (Creswell, 2007). Hermeneutical inquiry, which is concerned with interpretive understanding and context surrounding engagement in the particular act, was reflected through participants’ assessments of their experiences.

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