Date of Award
Master of Science
Scott Pierce, Rebecca Zakrajsek
Sport psychology researchers have examined the degree to which youth sport participation leads to positive developmental outcomes. Contemporary findings suggest that these outcomes are more likely to occur when adults intentionally design environments that foster life skills development. However, many of these studies have only examined one adult relationship (e.g. Camiré, Trudel, & Bernard, 2013; Gould, Collins, Lauer, & Chung, 2007; Turnnidge, Côté, & Hancock, 2014) without acknowledging the larger context surrounding interscholastic sport. The purpose of this study was to examine high school student-athletes’ perceptions of how stakeholders in their high school sport-ecosystem influence their life skills development and contribute to their well-being. To consider this system and the power of those who influence interscholastic sport, Bronfenbrenner’s Bio-Ecological Model (1977; 1996) and Prilleltensky’s (2003; 2011) concept of psychopolitcal validity were used as a dual theoretical framework. Seven focus groups and eight individual follow-up interviews were conducted with student-athletes (N = 46) who were members of student advisory councils for three state associations. Participants were asked how others (e.g. peers, coaches, parents, athletic directors, and state associations) shape the psychological factors and political dynamics that promote or hinder their well-being (Prilleltensky, 2003; 2011). Themes suggest that student-athletes’ development could be placed into three depths of life skills development: Resilient Development, Surface Development, and Optimal Development. All depths of development were comprised of two reciprocal subthemes: the relationships of the student-athletes with others, and the developmental experiences. The relationships that the student-athletes participated in were revealed to be the mechanisms with which the student-athletes learned life skills. Specifically, in Optimal Development, representing the deepest internalization of life skills, the student-athletes had Great Relationships that supported their initiatives to influence their sport experience, and meaningful practice of shaping their sport community through Anchored Learning. However, outside of Anchored Learning experiences, these skills learned through sport were not explicitly targeted toward increased civic engagement, which falls short of total well-being (Evans & Prilleltensky, 2005). When stakeholders at any level of high school sport guided the student-athletes in civic engagement, they were fostering deep internalization of life skills and preparation for life beyond sport.
Ault, Kylee Jo, "Athletes’ Perceptions of Their High School Sport Ecology and Life Skills Development. " Master's Thesis, University of Tennessee, 2019.