Surviving the Gridiron: An Ethnographic Exploration of Coach-player Relations in a Texas High School Football Program



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Using positive youth development theory, this ethnographic study explores the idioculture of a Texas high school football team with particular insights into the intentionality of the coach?s language with players. It yielded descriptions of certain behaviors, practices, and idioms that constitute the football program?s idioculture and allow for exploration of a youth sport context that promotes positive youth development. Additional exploration developed the ways in which players on a Texas high school football team perceive the coach/player relationship relative to the coaching staff?s efforts to motivate their players. Further exploration of these interpretations describe certain practices, artifacts and behaviors of coaches and players. In doing so, the themes of coach/player interactions, motivational techniques, and the community context are investigated to permit the better understanding of how coaches? actions contribute to players? experiences and their interpretation. Players reported that ?new school? coaches who actively sought to motivate and engage players were better equipped to form more meaningful mentoring relationships with the players. This is opposed to ?old school? coaches, who were viewed by the players to be less supportive and, at times, very distant to what the players wanted. As positive youth development values the role adults play in facilitating the growth of youth, it is important to understand how a coaches? action put him/her in a good standing with the player in order to better empower them.