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An Examination of Athlete Lifestyle Support for Elite Youth Cricketers on a National Development Programme

Devaney, D (2019) An Examination of Athlete Lifestyle Support for Elite Youth Cricketers on a National Development Programme. Doctoral thesis, Liverpool John Moores University.

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There have been calls for more holistic support of athletes (Gilbourne & Richardson, 2006; Henriksen, Stambulova, & Roessler, 2010; Nesti 2006; 2010) and a growing presence of athlete lifestyle programmes (Stambulova & Ryba, 2014) within elite and youth sport settings. However, there remains a need to better understand the concerns for which elite youth athletes seek lifestyle practitioner support, and to better understand the provision of this support within applied contexts (Devaney et al. 2017). The overarching aim of this PhD project was to examine how practitioner support can meet the support needs of elite youth cricketers. This aim was driven by three research questions, (A) What is the nature of and personal meaning ascribed to elite youth cricketers lifestyle concerns; (B) What demand does the nature of concerns place on a practitioner with regard to skills, philosophy of practice and organisational integration; and (C) How does the broader socio-cultural context influence the provision of support? The study was a uniquely applied, three-year practitioner-researcher ethnographic case study. As practitioner-researcher, I was fully embedded as an athlete lifestyle practitioner within a National Cricket talent development programme for three years. This included, but was not limited to, planning and strategic meetings, training camps, school and county visits, international and domestic tours and matches. The depth of embeddedness provided rich insight of the lives and experiences of the staff, and the players who were aged between 15 and 19. This insight was supplemented by retrospective interviews of players who had previously progressed through the programme. Underpinned by an existential theoretical approach, the project adopted a qualitative research design. Data was collected through observations, field notes, interviews (formal and informal), case notes and practitioner-researcher reflections. Data was thematically analysed (Braun & Clarke, 2006) and drawing on narrative forms of representation, facilitated the creation of 3 creative non-fiction stories of players (composite characters) journey through the programme, anchored by the critical moments (Nesti & Littlewood, 2010) in their journeys. These (evocative) stories, provide insight with a view to answering the three research questions. The stories highlighted the individual, deeply personal and psychological nature of player concerns that ought to be viewed within the context of each individuals background, life circumstances and adolescent stage of development. The concerns were less about performance or wellbeing, and more about players as people trying to perform, suggesting that the idea of 1 separating performance and non-performance was a false dichotomy. The nature of support that players sought suggests that the training and personal development of practitioners should be grounded in psychology, inclusive of humanistic/person-centred and existential perspectives. The results also highlighted the importance of self-care and supervision for practitioners due to the personal cost and professional challenges associated with providing care and support. It was evident that effective player support required a high level of contextual awareness that can only be achieved through being embedded in the performance environment. However, this access was not always afforded to me as a practitioner. The reduced access to players reflected the information-dominant expectations of lifestyle support held by significant stakeholders which often under-estimated the relational elements of player support. It is argued that this poses a risk to the recruitment of practitioners and to the enabling of effective player (and staff) support. Similarly, the significant staff turnover restricted the development of positive player-coach relationships which coaches believed was necessary to enable positive player development. Finally, it was argued that dividing wellbeing and performance between support roles reflects and reinforces the false dichotomy of performance and non-performance that acts as a barrier to viewing athlete development as a genuinely holistic entity. The findings led to a number of applied recommendations. It is argued that athlete lifestyle practitioners have a responsibility to ensure that their work is underpinned by a philosophy of practice that is grounded in psychological theory, and that this should be a driving force behind practitioner’s training and on-going personal development. Practitioners are encouraged to engage in self-care and supervision due to the personal and professional challenges associated with providing care and support. It is suggested that programme managers and stakeholders attribute greater value to the relational elements of lifestyle (and other staff’s) support and ensure lifestyle practitioner’s full embeddedness within the performance context. Finally, it is argued as important for organisations to recognise the false dichotomy between wellbeing and performance and choose to build a support infrastructure that recognises the holistic nature of the athlete’s experiences.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: ethnography; sport psychology; lifestyle; career transitions; identity
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC1200 Sports Medicine
Divisions: Sport & Exercise Sciences
Date Deposited: 11 Sep 2019 11:00
Last Modified: 21 Nov 2022 12:17
DOI or ID number: 10.24377/LJMU.t.00010852
Supervisors: Richardson, D, Nesti, M and Littlewood, M
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/10852
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