In search of understanding : examining the life role management approach of fathers who are coaches




Graham, Jeffrey Alexander

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The role of the father is changing in United States society (Bianchi, Robinson, & Milkie, 2006). Trend analysis indicates that men are beginning to be more involved in the family role, especially in regards to housework, cooking, cleaning, and childcare duties (Galinsky, Aumann, & Bond, 2011; Harrington, Van Deusen, & Humberd, 2011). Further research suggests that the basic definition of what makes a good father are also expanding (Bianchi et al., 2006). A good father is now defined as a co- financial provider, a disciplinarian, as well as a co-caretaker of the home and children (Rohner & Veneziano, 2001). In conjunction with these cultural changes, the research outside the realm of sport indicates that men are experiencing higher levels of work- family conflict than they did even ten years ago (Galinsky et al., 2011; Harrington et al., 2011; Parker & Wang, 2013). However, in the sport industry, orthodox masculine pressures celebrating competition, aggression, sacrifice, and commitment largely remain prominent (Dixon & Bruening, 2005; Wilson, 2002). Therefore, individuals working in sport are faced with shifting societal pressures and inflexible industry cultural norms (Graham & Dixon, 2014). Research on mothers in the sport industry suggests that work-family conflict is a significant source of tension for women working in sport (Bruening & Dixon, 2007; Dixon & Bruening, 2007). Furthermore, there is some evidence that men are experiencing levels of work-family conflict that is parallel with their female counterparts (Schenewark & Dixon, 2012). However, less is understood about the experiences of fathers who are coaches from an in-depth standpoint. Fundamental questions about how men experience, interpret, and cope with the competing pressures to be a good father and a good employee have largely gone unexplored (Graham & Dixon, 2014). As a result, the purpose of this study was to gain a deeper understanding of the experiences of fathers in sport. To that end, 24 fathers who were also high school head coaches from Texas volunteered for a study investigating their work-life balance experiences. The findings indicate that indeed fathers in sport are faced with tension and strain stemming from both the coaching role and the family role. The findings also suggest that men cope with these tensions by carefully managing the resources of time, energy, and attention. In addition, the fathers reported depending heavily on their wives for support in the coaching role. Furthermore, the data indicate that organizational support mechanisms were simply an unused and distrusted source of support that only became an option in extreme cases or health crises. These findings have important implications for theory as well as management. More specifically, the findings of this study had direct implications in regards to theories on role conflict, role engulfment, coping strategies, and masculinity. From a practical stance, this study also has important implications for sport managers in the areas of motivation, citizenship behavior, voicing behavior, and insights on how to support men in athletics.



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