Actors, interactions & networks: A relational analysis of talent identification & development in elite youth football

Thomas, Ryan David (2024) Actors, interactions & networks: A relational analysis of talent identification & development in elite youth football. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

[img] Text (Doctoral thesis)
thomas.ryan_phd(06024468).pdf - Submitted Version
Restricted to Repository staff only until 25 October 2024.

Download (3MB) | Request a copy


To date, research in talent identification and development has tended to adopt a positivistic
stance and prioritised the measurement of a range of biophysical markers that characterise
specific determinants of talent. Despite more recent inquiry shedding greater light on the social
and emotional complexities of sports coaching more generally, and elite youth football more
specifically, there is a paucity of work that explicitly seeks to explore the interactions, relations,
ties and networks of a range of stakeholders involved in the enactment of talent identification
and development in elite youth football. Through the use of Crossley’s (2011, 2015, 2018, 2022)
relational theorising as a heuristic lens, this thesis breaks new ground by providing original,
ethnographically-inspired knowledge concerning the interactions, relations, ties, and dialectics
that have helped to shape the constitution and configuration of an academy network. Data were
rigorously generated in a category 3 football academy with 12 different stakeholders, who each
performed a different role (e.g., academy management, coach, phase lead, head of recruitment,
sport scientist, video analyst, centre manager or parent). Data were generated over
approximately 20 months, and involved observational notes direct from the field, cyclical
semi-structured interviews and participatory mapping exercises. An iterative approach to data
analysis was adopted through constant and purposeful etic and emic readings of both the data
and the extant literature. Crossley’s work, together with the supporting views of other
sociological theorists (notably Granovetter, Becker, and Goffman) revealed patterns of
connection and non-connection to others, enabling and constraining features of (inter)action,
and reference to notions of strategic interaction, cooperation, trust, exchanges, power and
emotion. This had consequences on the constitution and configuration of the whole academy
network. By connecting these insights to the extant literature, I demonstrate how this project has
refined, extended or contributed to novel knowledge pertaining to the relational features of
talent identification and development in elite youth football, and as such, encourages new ways
of considering the ambiguities, realities and complexities of the everyday ‘doing’ of such work.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Academy Football, Relationships, Networks, Crossley, Relational Sociology
Subjects: C600 Sports Science
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: Rachel Branson
Date Deposited: 01 May 2024 13:55
Last Modified: 01 May 2024 14:00

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics