"It's really hard to navigate the sport system, knowing what you know": The impact of sport scholars' academic identities on their experiences as sport parents


Amid calls for increased attention to the experiences of sport parents (e.g., Babkes Stellino, 2022), we focused on a subset of sport parents whose voices have not yet been featured in the literature—those with academic expertise in sport. Sport scholarship adds a layer of complexity to sport parenting in terms of identity and roles. Our study investigated the question: For parents with academic expertise in sport, how does their academic identity influence their behaviours and interactions within the context of their own children's sport involvement? We purposefully sampled six women and five men from the United States and Canada, all of whom were tenured professors in areas related to youth sport, coaching, or talent development, with at least one 8-15-year-old child in competitive sport. Semi-structured interviews were conducted via Zoom and transcripts were analyzed using qualitative content analysis (Elo & Kyngäs, 2008). Three themes were identified: 1) academic observation, 2) disconnect between research and reality, and 3) impact of academic identity on relationships in their child's sport context. Participants noted advantages and disadvantages with viewing their children's sport through an academic lens. It was difficult watching coaches engage in practices that were contrary to youth sport literature. For some participants, their academic identity caused them to distance themselves from other sport parents who displayed certain behaviours and attitudes that did not align with evidence-based best practices. Our findings highlight the need for more knowledge translation aimed at parents and coaches and improved coach education.