The dependancy of female athletes on their coaches

Por: H. Overlier e K. Fasting.

Athens 2004: Pre-olympic Congress

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Introduction

The relationship between a young top level athlete and her coach is vital, both in relation to the young woman’s development as a human being and as an athlete. It is accordingly of great importance to get more knowledge about this relationship. This was the objective of the study presented in this paper. The part of the study presented here summarizes the information about the athletes’ perception of their dependence on and independence of their coaches.

Methods

The data is based on 11 in-depth interviews with elite female athletes, ages 16 to 19, in Norway. The athletes were selected based on their ranking in their sport’s national cup in 2002. The results presented are from the part of the study in which the athletes’ perceptions of their coaches’ influence on their personal lives were discussed.

Results

The analyses of the interviews revealed that the athletes did not differentiate between their athletic life and their personal life. They considered themselves to be athletes 24-hour hours a day, which means that they think and do their sport at all times. This perception enables the coaches to monitor the young athletes’ personal lives [1]. The coaches’ interference in an athlete’s personal life was however not looked upon as problematic for most of the athletes. This consent may be looked upon as problematic in relation to the development of the young athletes as independent persons.  

Discussion/ Comclusions

These results are analysed in relation to feminist theories and theories of power. The classic definitions of power as ‘power over’ or ‘power as property’ is often associated with structural inequalities, because the power exists either within an institution (sport) or within an individual (coach). Structural conceptions of power imply a hierarchy, in that there are the powerful and the powerless. According to this view of power, women, or in our case female athletes, can be looked upon as (passive) victims, who lack the capacity either to resist or to challenge power exerted against them [2]. Such a view of power has been criticized, however, particularly because of its lack of attention to agency. Recent post-structural views of power have focused upon the idea that power is not a fixed property but is negotiated, relational and contingent [3]. Our findings revealed however little negotiation by the athletes with the coaches.

References

[1]. Crosset, T. (1986). Male coach/female athlete relationships. Paper presented at the Annual Conference of The Norwegian society for sport research. Lillehammer, November 15th (unpub).

[2]. Brackenridge, C. (2001) Spoilsports: Understanding and preventing sexual exploitation in sport, London, Routledge

[3]. Tucker, K.H. (1998) Anthony Giddens and Modern Social Theory, London, Sage

 

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