The aim of this study was to generate a substantive grounded theory to explain a variety of young people's experiences of football within and external to FA Charter Standard Clubs and Schools.
A modified grounded theory methodology (Strauss and Corbin, 1998; Charmaz, 2000) was selected following an ethical commitment to 'listen to young people's voices'. This methodology was underpinned by critical realist ontological assumptions (Sayer, 2000) and reformulated according to Popperian epistemology (Popper, 1972; 1981). Ten mini-ethnographies were conducted in football clubs and schools in England over a period of 12 months.
Data were generated through focussed group interviews with young people (aged 8-18), and participant observation captured in field notes. Over three increasingly deductive iterations (or 'vintages') of data collection and analysis, a substantive theory of socialisation processes in youth football was created. This abstract theory hypothesised that young people's experiences may be conceptualised as partially individualised responses to external influences, expressed as desires and concerns that may act reciprocally on the social context. More specific hypotheses (or models) were formulated and 'mapped over' the abstract theory.
The relationship between stress, enjoyment and learning in youth football is explored in the first of these models, focussing specifically on the role of significant adults. Coach behaviour and its impact on the youth football environment is the subject of the second model, which describes an 'ideal type' football programme.
Female experiences are the subject of the third section of the discussion which focuses on 'first contact' with football (particularly male domination in mixed football) and subsequent socialisation experiences. Here it is conjectured that the development of friendships and identity specific to football may increase the propensity to participate. The final model conceptualises socialisation processes for young players from black and minority ethnic communities. The problems of 'culture barriers' and institutional racism are explored before considering the role youth football might play in the wider 'integration debate'.
Finally, some recommendations for policy change and for future research are offered. Here it is suggested that policy changes are monitored and evaluated with critical sociological studies focussing on young people's experiences of coaching and parenting and hegemonic power relations in female and multicultural football respectively
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Reference : Piggott, D.J.S. (2008). Young people's experience of football: a grounded theory. Loughborough: Loughborough University
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