“She looked like a frightened rabbit entering a lion’s den.” Parents’ experiences of performance expectancies directed towards elite athletes

Helen Heaviside, Andrew J. Manley, Susan Backhouse, Faye F. Didymus

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract

Abstract

Objectives: An accumulation of performance expectancies can have long-lasting consequences for elite athletes’ (Dehghansai et al., 2021). These expectancies may also have implications for members of athletes’ support networks (e.g., family members; Heaviside et al., 2021). Despite this, little is known about the consequences of performance expectancies for these individuals. This study aimed to address this gap and explore the consequences of performance expectancies for athletes’ parents.

Methods: Guided by a relativist ontological stance and constructivist epistemology, we conducted semi-structured interviews (Mlength = 85.17, SD = 21.57 minutes) with six parents (Mage = 26.33, SD = 2.08 years) of athletes who had experienced interpersonal expectancies regarding their performances at major tournaments. We analysed the data using reflexive thematic analysis and presented the findings using composite vignettes.

Findings and Discussion: Five vignettes provide a rich and candid account of the participants’ experiences of performance expectancies. They detail: (1) consequences of the expectancies for the parents (e.g., self-blame), (2) coping strategies (e.g., acceptance), (3) concerns relating to media expectancies and consequential media attention (e.g., insufficient media training), (4) the accumulating nature of performance expectancies, and (5) support they offered their son or daughter to manage the expectancies (e.g., protective buffering).

Conclusions: This study advances knowledge on the consequences of performance expectancies in elite sport, demonstrating that they extend beyond the athlete to their family network. The findings emphasise the need for sport psychology support to be offered to members of athletes’ families who are integral to athlete support throughout their careers.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jul 2024

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