Listening to parents in youth sport: Using discussion management techniques to improve the youth sport environment


Previous research suggests that parents are often shouldered with a variety of critical responsibilities in supporting their children's sport participation. Particularly in the context of youth ice hockey, parents are required to dedicate a sizeable amount of time and resources even at non-competitive levels of participation. Despite these commitments, few formal opportunities appear to exist for parents to advocate for themselves and inspire change within the minor hockey system. As such, the purpose of the present study was to provide a place for hockey parents to reflect on their experiences and share how they think minor hockey programming could be improved. To accomplish this, the innovative discussion management platform known as ThoughtExchange was employed by the research team. Through a web-based, two-step process, ThoughtExchange prompted parents to provide anonymized written feedback in response to the following prompt: "Reflecting on your family's most recent experiences as participants in minor hockey programming, what would you like to see improved?" Next, parents were shown and asked to rate the extent to which they agreed with responses provided by their fellow participants. This multifaceted process provided the research team with rich qualitative data as well as consensus regarding minor hockey's main issues as seen through the eyes of its community of parents. It is hoped that listening to the concerns of parents using ThoughtExchange may (a) act as a meaningful step towards better understanding negative parental behaviours while also (b) providing validation for the platform's utility as a useful method in future research.

Acknowledgments: This work was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC Grant # 435-2020-0094).