This thesis explores how parenthood and childhood are enacted within the context of organized youth sport in one rural and small-town British Columbian region. Studies of organized youth sport, childhood, and parenthood have primarily emphasized the experiences of (sub)urban dwellers. This has resulted in a dearth of knowledge on the spatialized processes which inform experiences of organized youth sport in rural and small towns. This ethnographic exploratory study was conducted between 2012 and 2015 in the British Columbian rural and small-town region of the West Kootenays. It draws on fieldnotes, open-ended interviews, and participant observation to capture the lived experiences of over a hundred young people, parents, and sport administrators. By utilizing a place-based, life course perspective, this study reveals the historical, structural, and spatial fluidity of concepts such as parenthood, childhood, and organized sport. A central finding in this study is that while principles of modern parenting and childhood are now part of the dominant cultural narrative, children and parents enact this narrative in conflicting and nuanced ways. Four spatialized patterns of child-rearing vis-à-vis sport emerged: (1) pursuing the dream of sporting success, (2) making organized youth sport work, (3) opting out of organized youth sport, and (4) being pushed out of organized youth sport. Parents’ and children’s relationship to place, access to resources, and commitment to varying narratives and discourses on childhood and parenthood were found to drive child-rearing practices. Overall, this study showcases the agency of rural residents and draws attention to the futility of representing rural people as solely “passive recipients” of hegemonic culture. It also draws attention to the importance of including young people alongside adults in research about their lives. Finally, this study encourages government policy-makers and community-level stakeholders in organized youth sport to take a place-based approach to the delivery of programs.
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Thesis advisor: Mitchell, Barbara
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