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Why do youth step out of sport and into court? A narrative-based exploration

Motivated by my son’s incarceration months after he stopped playing sport this thesis attempts to answer the questions that plagued me as I began dealing with lawyers, courts, and prison visits: If sport is all that it is supposed to be why is my son sitting in a prison cell? Had his fourteen years of playing sport been for nothing? Why hadn’t sport honoured its promise to protect my son from such a reality? Consequently, this thesis explores ‘Why youth step out of sport and into court?’ My objective is to provide parents and those interested in youth issues with new research that confirms, supplements, and/or challenges what is arguably ‘known’ about youth sports attrition and deviancy. However, rather than produce a traditional academic text I offer a polyvocal interpretive narrative text, where my own voice (as mother and academic) has been interwoven with the lived experiences and voices of five young men who had also ‘stepped out of sport and into court’ as well as the voices of published theorists and researchers who have broadened my understanding of the issues. As a result this thesis honours the lived experiences of the research participants as relayed to me during three semi-structured interviews, and is hopefully engaging enough to encourage you/the reader to think about the issues and to discuss them with others. The study highlights the complexities of sport and deviance, in that we live in a world of multiple realities. For instance, while many of the research participants had had similar experiences they had also come from different social, cultural and historical locations. Three of the participants had had two parents, two had had two parents living in different locations, and one had been raised by extended family. Three were raised in environments where gang ideology and drug use were normalised, while the other two had experienced environments to the contrary. One had been arrested on only two occasions, while the others had been arrested anywhere between five and thirty times before their nineteenth birthday, with charges ranging from painting on public property through to burglary and extreme violence. Their common experiences included their participation in rugby and/or rugby league; they had participated in sport and crime at the same time; they had been coached by intimidating people, and they had ‘stepped out of sport’ between thirteen and eighteen years old. The first take home message is that parents need to be diligent for the duration of their child’s sporting career and to be aware that whilst sports can do great things for young people, sport may also dampen a child’s sensitivity to fear and normalise and reinforce deviant beliefs, attitudes, justifications and orientations. The second take home message is that it is time for us to consider other forms of sport and physical activity and to give youth the power to define what sport means to them. Furthermore, if we agree that things need to change, this study recommends that attrition and deviance research be made more accessible and that the interested parties work together rather than independently.
Type of thesis
Clarke, G. H. (2012). Why do youth step out of sport and into court? A narrative-based exploration (Thesis, Master of Sport and Leisure Studies (MSpLS)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/7139
University of Waikato
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