Mjaavatn, P. E. (2006). With whom do you talk? Young athletes and their conversations around competition and training. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 38(5), Supplement abstract 1740.

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This investigation examined differences in conversation patterns linked to physical activity and achievements in sports in adolescents. Norwegian adolescents (N = 918; 13 -15 yr) answered a questionnaire about their conversation with peers, coaches, teachers and parents around participation in sports and physical activity in general. The study included all students in grade 8-10 in six randomly sampled schools representing three different counties in Norway.

Thirty percent of the adolescents did not participate in organized sports. Around 10% were rarely physically active outside school classes. Yet only 1 % of the students say they never talk to friends about physical exercise. Those who compete in sports like talking about sports with coaches and friends better than talking to parents. On a Likert scale (1-5 ) where 1 was “never talk” and 5 was “talks frequently”, 31.3 % of the active boys and 32.7 % of the girls reported frequently talking with their coach about competitions and training. 34.3% of the boys and 32.3% of the girls said they frequently talked to their friends about these topics. 24% of the boys and 15.2% of the girls talked frequently with their father about sport activities, 10.5 % of the boys and 15.2 % of the girls talked frequently with their mother. Only 1.2 % of the active adolescents reported they frequently talked to their teachers at school about sports.

Young athletes (8%) reported they never had a conversation with their coach about organized training, 11% never talked about competitions, and 17% never talked about training on their own. There was a strong correlation between the number of training hours a week, the frequency of conversations with the coach, and athletes’ satisfaction with their sport achievements. Those who most frequently reported they had conversations with their coach were those most satisfied. Thd correlation is stronger among girls than among boys. This difference could be linked to the gender of the coach because in Norway, few female coaches deal with boys while many deal with girls.

There were more conversations between athletes and coaches in individual sports than in team sports. For example, 54.5% of girls and 44% of boys participating in cross country skiing reported they frequently discussed training with their coaches, while in soccer 30.9% of boys and 30.7% of girls reported doing so.

Implication. Some coaches seem to prefer one-way communication towards athletes rather than a real dialogue. Real conversations may be more important to female athletes than to males. Frequent training could lead to more opportunities to talk to the coach.

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