Attitudes Towards Education in a Professional Football Academy: The Scholars’ Perspective

Godfrey, Clint (2017) Attitudes Towards Education in a Professional Football Academy: The Scholars’ Perspective. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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Despite an array of research focusing on elite sport in the UK, less attention has been afforded towards academy football within these elite environments, particularly in relation to the educational programmes that the players aged 16-18 are required to undertake. Little is known about the perspectives of these players and therefore the aim of this thesis was to explore their attitudes towards education and identify the factors that influenced them. A relativist ontological position was adopted in fitting with the constructivist paradigm in an attempt to understand the phenomenon from the perspective of the scholars focusing on one specific Premier League club. A phenomenological case study approach was adopted to understand the shared meanings created by the scholars in relation to their educational programme at the club. After undertaking eight focus groups and a further six in-depth interviews six main themes emerged in relation to the scholars’ attitudes and the factors that influenced them. It was clear from this research that the scholars at this club were diverse by way of past educational attainment and levels of engagement, they had mixed views of their educational programme at the club and their attitudes towards education were influenced to varying degrees by parents, peers and experiences with teachers. The scholars were focused more on their football ambitions and their intentions were to pursue careers in elite football with education being perceived as a back-up. Staff changes at the club resulted in a renewed focus on education, yet this was still set against the backdrop of the ambiguous and uncertain world of professional football. Due to the methodological approach that underpins this study, the findings are not expected to be regarded as generalisations across all elite level football clubs. They are intended to serve as a starting point for practitioners in these settings to develop practice accordingly.

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