«PARADOXES OF POWER IN COMPETITIVE YOUTH SPORT: FLORIDA JUNIOR TENNIS By JENNIFER JOY FIERS A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE ...»
PARADOXES OF POWER IN COMPETITIVE YOUTH SPORT: FLORIDA JUNIOR
JENNIFER JOY FIERS
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA© 2013 Jennifer Joy Fiers To my Mom and Dad
ACKNOWLEDGMENTSI am deeply indebted to my Mom and Dad, who have been there for me every step of the way with their guidance, love, encouragement, inspiration, support, shelter, and suggestions. I am truly blessed to have them as my parents and I love them with all my heart. I would like to thank my husband Dan whose unconditional love, support, respect, patience, friendship, nurturing, cooking, graphic design skills, and editing abilities helped get me through the final stages of this book. I am so grateful to have him as my life partner. I would also like to thank my entire family for their support and for believing in me throughout this process. And I thank Nick for helping me transcribe interviews.
I would like to thank the great coaches in my life, specifically, George Wolbers and Phil Rogers. They taught me how to be a better person through tennis and that the journey, not just the win, is why we play sports. I would like to thank my advisors – Dr.
Faye Harrison, Dr. Catherine Emihovich, and Dr. Tamir Sorek – for helping me think through the complexities of what I have been writing, but also for being wonderful guides through my graduate career. Not only have they been vital in the research and writing process, but they have been great role models both inside and outside the classroom. And, last but not least, I would like to thank my main advisor and committee chair, Dr. Brenda Chalfin, who pushed me to be a better writer while also making me believe that I could be. I cannot thank her enough for her guidance, patience, and enthusiasm for my research. I am blessed to have had these amazing individuals as mentors.
TABLE OF CONTENTSpage ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
LIST OF TABLES
LIST OF FIGURES
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION
2 METHODS: YOUTH-CENTERED SENSORIAL AUTOETHNOGRAPHY............... 30 Youth-Centered Research at Home
Sensing Participant Emotions
Sensing the “Zone”
Sensing Pain, Fatigue, Self-Deprivation, and Burnout
Sensing Politics and Power Dynamics
Specific Research Techniques
Informal and Semi-Structured Interviews
Texts and Audio-Notes
3 EMBODIMENT THROUGH RITUALS OF THE JUNIOR TENNIS HABITUS......... 53
Junior Tennis as a Social Rite of Passage
Sport as Social Ritual
Communitas and Liminality of/in Rituals of Sport: Anti-Structure within Structure
Flow, as Liminality, to Achieve Communitas
Junior Tennis as Habitus
Embedded Rituals in Junior Tennis Body Culture
Tournament, match, and point rituals
Flow as the “Zone” in Junior Tennis
Bodily expressions of the zone
The zone as shared liminal experience (communitas)
Embodied Learning and Identity in the Junior Tennis Habitus
Constructive and Destructive Flow
“Becoming” the Self
4 RELATIONAL POWER AMONG PARENTS, PLAYERS, AND COACHES.......... 114
Technologies of Domination
Technologies of the Self
Foucault and Bourdieu
Technologies of Self, Technologies of Domination, or Both?
Governmentality and (Dis)Empowerment in Junior Tennis
The Power Molecule
“Authority” role (parent/coach) power continuum
“Subordinate” role (player) power continuum
Relational Power Grid
5 PLAYER-PARENT DYNAMICS
Parent and Player Power Approaches
Paradoxical Spaces of Player-Parent Dynamics
Paradoxical Spaces of Choice
Introduction to tennis
Paradoxical Spaces of Supporting Dreams
Paradoxical Spaces of Communication
Paradoxical Spaces of Involvement
Paradoxical Spaces of Pressure
6 PLAYER-COACH DYNAMICS
Coach and Player Power Approaches
Paradoxical Spaces of Player-Coach Dynamics
Paradoxical Spaces of Intimacy
Paradoxical Spaces of “Chemistry”
Paradoxical Spaces of Performance Enhancement
Motivation: fear and anger
Discipline vs abuse
Defining coach abuse
Paradoxical Spaces of Loyalty
7 EMBODIMENT OF IDENTITY AND WELL-BEING: PAIN, POTENTIAL, AND MORALITY
Paradoxical Spaces of Pain
The Pain Boundary Concept
(Over)Dependence on Authority
Physical Pain and Injury
Emotional Pain and Burnout
Existential Pain and Depression
When sacrifice becomes self-harm
Long-term effects of disempowering pain
Paradoxical Spaces of Potential
Early Specialization or the Road to Burnout?
Academies: The Next Step or Hype?
Paradoxical Spaces of Morality
Work Ethic: Practice Makes Perfect or Perfectionism?
Sportsmanship: Being a “Good Sport” or a “Weak Competitor”?
Cheating: learning to cope with deception or learning to deceive?.......... 327 Management of emotions: productive aggression or destructive anger?. 337 Confidence: individualism or narcissism?
8 EMBODIMENT OF IDENTITY AND WELL-BEING: TENNIS AND NON-TENNIS SOCIAL WORLDS
Paradoxical Spaces of Tennis Identity
Peaking: biological truth or cultural construct?
Competitiveness or “cattiness”
Cute and thin, but strong
American Junior Tennis and International Competition
Choice: “good for life, bad for tennis”
Drive: natural or innate?
Money and agents: opportunity or exploitation?
3-1 Liminal pathways
3-2 Sacred boundary
3-3 Sponsor banners
3-4 States of flow
4-1 The power molecule
4-2 Authority (coach/parent) power continuum
4-3 Subordinate (player) power continuum
4-4 Relational power grid
6-1 Surveillance tower
6-2 Long view of courts
AAA American Anthropological Association HGH Human Growth Hormone IRB Institutional Review Board ITF International Tennis Federation NCAA National Collegiate Athletic Association USTA United States Tennis Association Women’s Tennis Association WTA
Chair: Brenda Chalfin Major: Anthropology Competitive youth sport is often discussed as either “good” or “bad” for children’s personal development: “good” in the sense that it prepares children for adulthood; “bad” for the risk of physical injury, excessive competition, and emotional imbalances.
However, as my two years of doctoral fieldwork and thirty years of experience in the competitive junior tennis culture shows, the picture is much more complicated. Through daily performance enhancement rituals and the constant oscillation of power among coaches, parents, and players, youths embody the values of the sport culture as well as the larger society in both empowering and disempowering ways.
In my research, I used a “sensorial autoethnographic” approach as I trained regularly with junior athlete participants and used my own experiences as a junior player and coach to inform my inquiries. The power, that coaches and parents express with their positions of authority, falls along continuums. Likewise, the performance of power that junior athletes exhibit in response to parent/coach power falls along continuums as well. Junior athletes are seen as “liminal agents”, embodying their identities and power through training, as they transition between identities of child and adult, student and master. They are both being managed by coaches and parents as well as employing agency in various forms that in turn affect the ways in which their coaches and parents train and manage them.
The power dynamics among the coach-player-parent triad, or power molecule, are described as constantly move back-and-forth along continuums within the larger context of the junior tennis culture. As a result, junior athletes as liminal agents experience paradoxes of power – being both empowered and disempowered – by their tennis experiences. These paradoxes affect their well-being and self-making processes in their development of morality, perception of identity, experience of pain, family dynamics, school, and social life. This research could contribute to, not only sport cultures, but other youth performance enhancement cultures (i.e. academics, the arts) as well as studies on health, gender, childhood, abuse, and human rights.
The competitive junior tennis environment in Florida is a site to behold. Below, my field notes portray a day at one of the most important tournaments around the world
where several thousand of the world's most elite junior players have come to compete:
The sidewalks stream with players, anxious to start playing their matches.
Players wish each other luck. Parents advise their players for their next match in various languages, some very intensely. Players converse in groups within their various teams. Their federation names brand the backs of their sweat jackets. Other players cross the language barrier and make friends from different countries, speaking in broken English sometimes when it is the only language they share. As Facebook and smart phones help players to keep in touch with each other between tournaments, some players squeal in excitement or give each other high-fives as they reunite.
Many players are waiting for their names to be called on the loudspeaker to come to the tournament desk to start their matches. Some older players sit at the benches with one headphone in an ear while the other one dangles, carrying on conversations with each other. Other players isolate themselves from the rest of the players and stretch in preparation. Some of the younger players play games on their phones and mini-tennis on the sidewalk, waiting for their matches to be called. Some players' bodies are bandaged and braced: knees decorated with black bands, thighs wrapped with bandages, ankles supported with braces, or shoulders bathed in ice wraps.
Adults philosophize about players, game styles, a federation’s decisions, the state of junior tennis in America versus elsewhere, the latest pro tournament, college recruitments, and professional contracts. Coaches share notes with other coaches about their players’ next opponent: “She’s young”; “She just won a big tournament last month”; “They had some long points.” Parents talk about school: “What are the boys doing for school? Are they in school now?” Walking out to the courts, past the players in waiting, the symbols of the competition environment become more apparent. Signs on the court doors command: “Please respect coach-athlete privacy. Permit the coaching staff to work without interference.” This sign is reserved for practice time but the matches are going on now and it means the same thing to the players: no parental interference allowed. Signs with the names of various countries label the players' chairs. A sign on the mental toughness office door says, “War Room”. College coaches branded with their school colors and names swarm the tournament site to scout for new talent.
The emotional ups and downs exposed on the courts are contagious among the players and spectators. Players moan in agony, trading off points as crowds clap in response to the players' efforts. A girl pumps her fist with a hissing “Yes!” in a tiebreaker while another girl yells at herself after making an error. Another player a few courts away screams in blood curdling frustration. Players grunt on the courts as they expel their breaths when their racquets strike the ball of each shot they hit. Some players yell out in anger while others yell out in exuberance. Some come off the court looking victorious, while others leave the court with their heads hanging low.