Academic journal article International Journal of Psychological Studies

The Perceptions of the Best Portuguese Coaches about Dropout and Persistence in Women's Artistic Gymnasts

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychological Studies

The Perceptions of the Best Portuguese Coaches about Dropout and Persistence in Women's Artistic Gymnasts

Article excerpt


The purpose of the present investigation was to study the perceptions of the best Portuguese coaches of women's artistic gymnastics on athletes' persistence and dropout behaviors. Semi-structured interviews were applied to obtain the coaches' (n=8) accounts on why athletes persisted in or dropped out of gymnastics, and what lead parents to maintain or remove their daughters from gymnastics. In both cases, two distinct time periods were distinguished: "at the beginning of the career" and "throughout the career". Additionally, coaches were also questioned as to the factors underlying athletes' success in gymnastics. Results showed that, in the opinion of coaches, the decision to dropout or persist, whether it emanated from the athletes or their parents, stemmed from multiple causes. Nevertheless, the rigorous physical and psychological demands of the training process, and the conflict of those demands with work, study and family commitments, were often strong motives for athletes' and parents' dissatisfaction. Contrariwise, the enjoyment derived through the involvement in gymnastics, competitive ambition and the experience of success were some of the main motives attributed to athletes' persistence in gymnastics. Regarding parents, gymnastics began as a way to fill up their daughters' free time and as a means to promote their comprehensive education. However, in time, gymnastics seemed to become a means of social affirmation and an outlet for parents' personal frustrations. Finally, coaches stressed the importance, for success in women's gymnastics, of successful competitive results and enjoyment, as well as the human and social circumstances surrounding the athletes.

Keywords: coaches, dropout, parents, persistence, success, women's artistic gymnastics

1. Introduction

The factors influencing the selection, development and stability of competitive athletes assume a crucial and decisive role in the success of their sporting career. To that extent, successful sport organizations need to implement and manage, strategically, a multifaceted structure that supports the whole training process. This structure can not only bring greater consistency to the career development of athletes, but also minimize the impact of possible entropy factors that may hinder their performance. In this context, a thorough understanding of what influences athletes' performance-particularly with regard to the motivational factors that keep some athletes committed, inspiring and encouraging them to surrender as much as possible, while others decide to terminate their involvement in sports-can help improve the structural and human conditions essential to optimize the training and learning process and, ultimately, athletes' sports performance (Nunomora, Okade, & Carrara, 2012; Weiss & Hayash, 1995).

From one point of view, the dropout phenomenon has always been a major concern for all those who, directly or indirectly, invest in youth sports development. Over the years, numerous investigations have sought to investigate the causes of dropout in organized sport, concluding on the non-existence of a single reason to explain that decision. Furthermore, the frequency of the multiple reasons evoked to justify dropout from sport varied from study to study (Lindner, Johns, & Butcher, 1991). However, conflicts of interest (e.g., school, work), other interests, excessive emphasis on competition, boredom, competitive stress, conflict/ negative coach experiences, and lack of fun were consistently amongst the most common dropout reasons mentioned in the research literature (Johns et al., 1991; Weiss & Williams, 2004). Additionally, several studies have shown that the number of children who discontinue their participation in sport increases as they get older. At this level, adolescence age, characterized by major physical alterations, transformations toward life independency and individuality, and by a growing awareness of alternatives to their lifestyle, is the period of greatest risk for dropping out of sport (Delorme, Chalabaev, & Raspaud, 2011; Gould & Whitley, 2009). …

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