‘It just makes you feel invincible’: A Foucauldian analysis of children's experiences of organised team sports Research Completed


‘It just makes you feel invincible’: A Foucauldian analysis of children's experiences of organised team sports

Lead Author

simon walters , Deborah Payne Philip J. Schluter Rex Thomson


AUT University, University of Otago, University of Queensland, Unitec

Publication Year



Sport, Education and Society


Dr Simon Walters Senior Lecturer AUT 

Phone: +64 9 921 9999 ext 7022 Email: simon.walters@aut.ac.nz


The childhood years are highlighted as a crucial time when ongoing participation in physical activity can be nurtured and maintained. The nurturing of a child’s proclivity to participate in organised sport normally falls into the domain of adults. While both parents and coaches have been identified as key influences on children’s enjoyment of sport, some negative perceptions exist about their roles. Although children’s perspectives are increasingly being acknowledged as valuable, it would appear that young children are still marginalised as active participants in areas of health-related research. The primary objective of this study was to give space to children’s views of organised sport and to examine how adult behaviours affected these children’s enjoyment of sport. This qualitative study utilised eight focus group interviews with a total of 30 children (aged 6–11 years) in the Greater Auckland area of New Zealand. This paper presents a Foucauldian discourse analysis of children’s views relating to their sporting experiences. Children articulated three discursive constructions of sport: sport as competition, sport as fun and sport as fair play. The dominance of sport as competition would appear to serve the needs of coaches and parents more than those of children. Coaches who appear to be firmly positioned within a competitive discourse of sport use their power to support coaching practices that clash with the guidelines provided for them by their sporting bodies. Our analysis shows that many children may be exposed to discursive practices that are not conducive to a child-centred sporting environment. Through the exercise of disciplinary measures, there is pressure on children to conform to the normative behaviours associated with a dominant competitive sport discourse.



Children, Side-line behaviour, Sport, Parent, Coach, Foucault, Discourse





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March 3, 2015

Last Modified

March 3, 2015