Findings are presented in three sections. First, we introduce the confirmatory analysis of the generative mechanisms, contextual features and outcomes following the immersive period. Second, we describe the idiosyncratic nature of the experience and the contrasting ways in which each young person engages with the club’s developmental systems. Finally, by bringing together the findings across both phases of the study, we aim to present an evidence-based model of psychosocial development in this setting. For economy, observational notes and participant quotes have been minimised. Pseudonyms and unique identifying events are used to prevent the identification of individuals. In the case of club co-founders Coach Jack and Coach George (pseudonyms), identifying them and their real name is easy to do, given that it is feasible to determine the lead author’s club affiliation. Thus, explicit permission has been sought and granted from them to publish this paper.
3.1. Confirmation of Generative Mechanisms, Contextual Features and Outcomes
Part 1 identified four major families of mechanisms responsible for driving or precluding psychosocial development in sport: (i) The Greenhouse for Growth; (ii) The Personal Boost; (iii) The Attention Factory; and (iv) The Real-Life Simulator (Figure 1
). ‘The Greenhouse for Growth’ revolves around the setting features that create a context in which young people secure personal growth. ‘The Personal Boost’ focuses on the distinctive capacity of participation in performance sport to generate elevated states of mind (i.e., happiness, joy, satisfaction, elation, pride, etc.). ‘The Attention Factory’ relates to the notion of the club’s ‘way’ of doing sport participation, providing athletes with a clear focus in life that activates personal agency. Finally, ‘The Real-Life Simulator’ is linked to the idea that participation in youth performance development sport intentionally and unintentionally simulates elements of adult life.
3.1.1. The Greenhouse for Growth
The notion of the club as a space endowed with fertile developmental ‘soil’ and optimal ‘weather’ for growth was confirmed during the club visits. A further two mechanisms were identified, namely, time and opportunity and the demands of the game (Table 1
). In this section, we review each mechanism as they were encountered in the field.
The club ethos became an inescapable theme. Underpinned by the club’s mission ‘to provide opportunities for all sections of the community regardless of ability, background, gender or age’, it could be said that the club’s modus operandi revolved around two key elements: (i) prioritising the development of the human over the player; and (ii) high, non-negotiable expectations that all stakeholders contribute to this overall outcome. Observations revealed the key role played by the club founders in maintaining a focus on this big purpose. Former high school teachers, Coach Jack and his wife Mary, and Coach George (all of them in their 70s) set the tone for the rest of the club. Jack’s attitude, especially, was repeatedly highlighted as the club’s cornerstone. As a score-keeper and guardian of the club standards, Jack was known for upholding strong values and willingly enforcing them with no concern for his public image:
“Look, he can be a pain in the backside, but someone has to be prepared to do that or the club will go down the drain. He was out for a few months because of [health issue] and you could see the club starting to slip up because no-one was prepared to do what he does. Not even Coach George (co-founder) would be able to do that.” (Coach James)
In addition, coaches’ behaviours were consistently seen as central to the greenhouse effect. Notwithstanding this, parents expressed a clear preference for the coaches they favoured for their children. Parents saw older coaches like Coach Jack, Coach George and Coach Dean as more encouraging and personable. In contrast, some of the younger coaches were deemed “too in your face and aggressive” (Sophie, parent), which risked damaging individual players’ self-esteem, which was typically regarded as fragile. Observations during matches and training sessions confirmed the existence of these two relatively different approaches to coaching. As they got older, however, players favoured the more aggressive and “army-sergeant like” (Julius, parent) approach. Michael, one of the U16 players, said:
“I love Coach Marvin’s style. He is pushing us very hard because that’s what we need now. We need to be in shape and be strong physically and mentally. If we can’t cope with training, how are we going to cope with the games?”
Notwithstanding these preferences, coaches whose style met the needs of specific players were generally described as inspirational, facilitative and as great role models. Jennifer, one of the mothers, explained:
“Coach George and Coach Dean were tremendous for my son. They turned a shy and timid boy into a happy and confident lad just by guiding him carefully and showing him a lot of love. They are wonderful role models.”
Parental support and influence were also corroborated during the immersion period. Parents were constantly seen contributing to the functioning of the environment or, as Coach Jack put it, “mucking in”. This included undertaking the duties of team manager, bus driver, fund-raiser, and many other chores. For some parents, this became almost a part-time occupation. U13 Team Manager Natalie is a prime example, as can be seen in the following:
Observer notes, 10 March—Training session 6–8 p.m. at the club:
Natalie, the team manager for the U13s, makes me giggle. Perhaps I’m being judgemental but it’s amazing what people will do for their kids. Natalie is in her mid-40 s, quite overweight and sporting a bright spray tan, full make-up, extremely long nails and massive earrings. Surely, she doesn’t belong on a basketball court, but here she is, running around the place in her heels collecting subs, sorting out transport for the weekend’s game and organising kit and refreshments. And she is loving it and thriving in this role. When I ask her about it, all she says is: “I love it. I’d do anything to help my kid, but I actually enjoy dealing with all this, I’m quite bossy you know”. Then she runs away chasing some parent who hasn’t paid yet.
The notion of social support and influence also featured strongly during live observations. The community hub nature of the club manifested itself at different levels. Club members used the facility more as a traditional youth club than as a performance sport club. Young people were seen constantly hanging around the centre, spending inordinate amounts of time “just chilling and meeting people” (Kyle, player). Thanks to its open-door policy, players came and went constantly from the moment school finished to the moment the building closed. Often, players had to be chivvied off the premises by the coaches. Likewise, the co-educational nature of the club, which did not feature in Phase 1, became prominent in Phase 2. Parents saw this positively: “look, they are 15, they are going to be into girls, I’d much rather they do it here in this safe space where we know the girl and we know their family too and what they are into” (Megan, parent).
Two new processes were, however, elicited in Phase 2. ‘Time and Opportunity’ relates to the large amounts of time players spend at the club and the opportunities this afforded for positive change. During Phase 1, time was construed as a constraint with implications for school, social and family life. During the immersion period, interpretations of time shifted to one of being much more of an enabler of opportunity; it was because of time, especially ‘better-than’ time, that participation at the club produced positive personal development. Jerome, a parent, put it like this: “any time spent at the basketball centre is better than what they could be getting up to in the street corners or on the PlayStation”.
The second novel mechanism elicited during Phase 2 related to the impact of the traditions and rules of the sport. As defaults, these acted as silent, organic mechanisms to support personal development. For instance, basketball rules place special importance on the behaviour of players and coaches, strictly enforced by referees in all games; this is accepted by all as part of the game. As one of the parents put it: “basketball people are nice; football is horrible, our son used to play football too and they get away with blue murder.” (Nadine, parent). Moreover, the game mandates other positive traditions such as the respectful ritual handshakes pre- and post-game with opposition and referees and the relationship-building hosting of a home-made finger buffet for the visiting team after each game.
3.1.2. The Attention Factory
Participation in this basketball club was seen by stakeholders as providing young athletes with a clear and sustained focus. This sustained engagement was viewed as a protective shield, deterring against negative attitudes and lifestyles. In Phase 1, two major sets of sub-mechanisms were proposed: (i) love for the game and (ii) a purposeful life (Table 2
). While these elements were corroborated across the immersive season, on-site observations and discussions with the stakeholders provided further insight and texture.
Player’s ‘Love for the game’ was the most discussed and observed mechanism throughout the ethnographic period. Parents regularly reported how their kids were enthralled by the sport. Jennifer, one of the mothers, shook her head while she said: “all my son wants to do in his spare time is basketball, come to the centre, in the back garden, in videogames, watching it on TV or YouTube, that’s all he has time for”. In this narrative, passion for the sport was seen as the first step in achieving a host of positive outcomes, including protection from typical dangers and distractions of the teenage years or the development of a healthy lifestyle. Nevertheless, for some parents, this passion became a liability in its own right. Sophie explained:
“His newly found ability in basketball has given him a lot of confidence and self-belief, but at the same time, that’s all he wants to do, he is not motivated to study more or put the same level of effort into anything else.”
Likewise, the notion of basketball providing ‘A purposeful life’ was salient during the immersion period. Most players expressed the ambition of securing a US college scholarship to represent Great Britain and play basketball professionally. This desire provided clear life goals, focus, purpose and direction. With such ambitions, first steps were acknowledged; do well in their GCSE exams (i.e., end of compulsory education in the UK at 16 years of age) and do extra work to refine basketball and physical skills. With this ‘purpose’, both parents and players recognised the value of the club for providing and requiring engagement in demanding, positive structures and routines. Kenny, a player for the U16 squad, clearly describe this impact:
“I know that the days I have training, I have to get well organised, come from school, get my homework done straight away, have some tea, rest, and go to training. I know that by the time I come back, I’ll be knackered and good for nothing but food and bed.”
3.1.3. The Personal Boost
The capacity of sport participation to generate elevated states of mind and increased player wellbeing and intrinsic motivation was regularly confirmed during the ethnography. Phase 1 interviews established three sub-themes: (i) experience of success; (ii) athletic kudos; and (iii) steam release. The immersion period elicited a further central component: fun and enjoyment (Table 3
The experience of success was consistently reported as imperative for securing many of the positive outcomes achieved by these young athletes; for instance, it was reported to be necessary to the development of the self (i.e., self-esteem, positive identity) and for enhanced social development (i.e., belonging). At this club, success was experienced at various levels. Of course, winning matters at this club. The club’s record of over 60 national titles in the last 20 years is unmatched nationwide. Success was also enjoyed vicariously by parents. Julius, a U16 parent, said in this respect: “every day (they) walk into the centre and look up and see the banners on the wall with all the titles. They want to have their team’s name on that banner next year, every year”. The presence of these banners and the attention paid to them provided further reinforcement about the importance of committing to working hard to play and do well.
Success was also experienced at the individual level through the constant provision of opportunities for players to improve (and to prove) their competence. Club officials continually looked to create extra opportunities for high-quality competition to stretch the players. These include opportunities to ‘play up’, playing against older and more experienced teams, organising competitive tournaments, and creating their own internal leagues when external competitions were insufficiently challenging. Over the course of a season, coaches regularly and deliberately put players in situations well beyond the players’ comfort zone; knowing that coaches only did this with adaptable players helped to create player confidence, which was then amplified by good experiences and positive reflections on the experience.
In relation to athletic kudos, players reported that playing basketball increased their ‘street cred’ (Israel, U16 player). Being recognised as a good basketball player afforded them a powerful social cache. For instance, Kenny, a bubbly and lanky 15-year old with a reputation for being difficult to manage, saw basketball as his ‘saving grace’ in school:
“I got into a bit of trouble in school, being a bit stupid you know, trying to get attention, but because I am a good ball player they let me get away with some of it, they need me for the basketball team you know.”
Players reported that being good at basketball made them unique amongst their peers. For example, when they met new people through non-basketball friends, they were introduced along the lines of “this is the basketball guy I told you about”, and this, for them, was “cool” (Israel, U16 player). Often, their superior height, which may have been a negative factor in younger years, had become a real asset in their teens. Jayden (U16) jokingly explained it as becoming “a bit of a chick-magnet”.
As for the potential for sport to act as a release valve, players were observed to arrive at the centre shortly after school finished to spend in excess of three to four hours a day on the premises. This was most common in the older groups, who were free to travel independently; they would use that time in team training, doing self-training, ‘shooting around’ or just chatting to others until 10 p.m. Training was characterised by high levels of exertion, regardless of age group. The fatigue this produced, and the need for quality sleep, helped to ensure that players would have little time and energy to dedicate to other activities (positive or negative).
Finally, the quality of time spent at the club highlighted the overall experience as ‘better than’ many alternatives, especially for experiencing ‘Fun and Enjoyment’. Players were observed during self-training sessions, normally in pairs or small groups, genuinely enjoying practicing the sport and regularly smiling and ‘laughing out loud’. This fun and enjoyment was also evident in organised sessions or competitive matches. Observations of coach-led training highlighted how coaches strived to balance the fine-tuning of technical and tactical work and drills with activities where the main goal was to offer free play so players could enjoy themselves. In this context, it was common to witness player’s exhilaration and excitement.
3.1.4. The Real-Life Simulator
Many of the features of participation at the club resembled elements of the real world. ‘Adult-life-like’ situations were presented regularly and often to players at earlier ages than most of their non-club contemporaries. These experiences were laden with real meaning and consequences but were possible because of the psychological safety built through regular exposure to the club environment. The major themes proposed during phase one were confirmed in stage two and included: Competition; The Team; Learning; Diversity; and Mini-Workplace (Table 4
Parents and players saw the club environment as “loaded with competitive pressure from multiple angles” (Amy, parent). Pressurising elements included internal competition (i) for securing selection to the weekend squad, then (ii) for playing minutes during matches, and (iii) to perform well during training and matches. Wider forms of ‘pressure’ arose from the uncertainties of the annual review to retain squad membership in the following season, competitive selection for Great Britain squads, and the challenges around securing a US scholarship. While acknowledging the inherent difficulties of dealing with this volume of pressure at early ages, both parents and players felt it fostered positive development because it was framed by the support provided by the club’s day-to-day ways of working. Many offered a relatively stoic view of this phenomenon:
“…pressure is part of life. They have to get used to it and learn to deal with it, with the failures and the disappointments. Better to do it in this safe environment than waiting to be out in the real world.” (Eva, parent)
Players were equally pragmatic and stressed that “if you can’t take the pressure you shouldn’t play national league” (Jayden).
With regard to being part of a team, the opportunity to learn to work as part of a group was widely valued. Understanding different roles, hierarchy, and the importance of discipline and doing one’s job well to maximise the chance of group success were all highlighted. Coaches consistently reinforced good team behaviours and readily reprimanded negative alternatives. For example, during one training session, a player threw a tantrum after a series of bad plays. The coach immediately stopped the session and shouted: “Who do you think you are? This is not about you, this is about the team, and what you are doing now is hurting the team!”. Being part of a team also created opportunities to lead others. This experience was highly valued by parents and players, as explained by U16 player Mikael:
“This year I have had to step up. I wasn’t the new guy anymore and there was less slack. I feel I have become much more of a leader; I have learnt to talk to people and reason with them to get them to do what they need to do for the team.”
The immersion period not only confirmed but also offered extra detail on how participation increased players’ learning capacity. A number of recurrent practices, however, did not appear to align with current learning theory; coaches often used lengthy verbal explanations, and many chose to dictate every move, allowing little room for players to contribute. New technologies (e.g., iPads, video analysis, etc.) were rarely used in teaching/coaching; instead, coaches relied on formal instruction. During ‘coaching episodes’, players were generally in one of two groups: those who seemed fully engaged, and those who appeared disengaged and even bored. Often, coaches made no clear effort to engage the disengaged players. Likewise, some players displayed sub-optimal learning attitudes, including poor listening skills and/or reluctance to accept external feedback.
Paradoxically, however, players relished every chance to direct their own learning when they were away from coaches and regular team sessions. By observation and in conversations, players were deeply committed to improving their skills. Players were seen videoing each other so they could analyse their own performance to find areas for improvement. Players watched YouTube videos of NBA player workouts to pick up drills they could try on their own. They were also regularly seen peer coaching and were comfortable with peer learning. Community leagues and holiday camps were also fertile ground for peer coaching and for players to explore their skills in a less controlled and structured setting.
Regarding diversity, Phase 2 showed the broad demographic range of individuals in the club environment. At the time of the study, club coaches came from the UK, USA, Iran, Lithuania and Spain, and the senior team included players from the UK, USA, Spain and Greece. In the national league programme, many players belonged to migrant families who came to the UK as a result of the 2008 recession (particularly from Poland, Spain and Portugal, where basketball is a mass sport). In addition, many players had roots in former British colonies, especially from the Caribbean and Africa. Moreover, diversity was enhanced by competing against, and meeting with, players from different English cities during national league games and in international tournaments. For parents and players, the developmental benefits of this situation included: (i) experiencing different cultural approaches to life; (ii) broadened horizons; and (iii) learning to deal with a variety of people and situations.
“It was just great to see him interacting with all these different people. Where we live and where he goes to school most people are white middle class and he built some great relationships with kids that he would have never met otherwise, and I think that has stood him in great stead going forward to uni and now work.” (Mark, parent)
Finally, regarding the club environment as a mini-workplace, the ethnographic period revealed that few players were taking direct advantage of these opportunities. Opportunities for work came with refereeing and coaching in the community leagues and camps, contributing to cleaning the centre, and volunteering during club events. A small group of players actively pursued these opportunities; through them, they could practice basic workplace skills and attitudes, including time-keeping, planning, responsibility and accountability.
The ethnographic period thus served to confirm, refute and refine the findings of Phase 1 of the case study. Although the mechanisms are presented as four discrete categories to ease understanding, on the ground, they represent a complex network of interdependencies and causal relationships. Mechanisms interacted in multiple ways to foster visible developmental outcomes. Two major principles appear to govern this network: (i) specific developmental outcomes are affected by multiple mechanisms; and (ii) specific mechanisms influence many networks, meaning they may simultaneously contribute to generating a number of developmental outcomes.
3.2. The Idiosyncratic Nature of Development
The process of apportioning causality is complex, and participant and researcher interpretation is required to connect the developmental dots. Findings from this current study confirm that personal development in this youth performance setting was significantly more nuanced and textured than previously described. The fine-grained detail provided by this case study enhances our understanding of this phenomenon. In the following section, focus is placed on the different ways in which sport was experienced and used by different athletes.
Phase 1 concluded that the experience of this programme was unique to each player. Phase 2 confirmed that the internal and external assets of the young person strongly influenced the activation of causal mechanisms and thus the generation of outcomes. Considering the overall findings, four processes were identified to explain this differential: (i) few mechanisms were universally available in equal measure; (ii) no available mechanism was optimised by all participants; (iii) psychosocial outcomes of participation were mediated and moderated by individuals’ social environments; and (iv) critical life incidents conditioned the personal narrative and the meaning of the experience. These principles will be elaborated upon separately.
3.2.1. Few Mechanisms Were Universally Available in Equal Measure
Examples of mechanisms affected by this included parental support/influence, coach behaviours, social support/influence, athletic kudos, mini-workplace and diversity. We concluded that the availability and causal strength of mechanisms tended to be modulated by a series of factors. For instance, some parents were unable to regularly support their child for multiple reasons: i.e., being a single-parent family, caring for other siblings, work commitments, or compromised finances. This created impacts at different levels and had both positive and negative effects. The story of Aki illustrates this point.
Aki lives quite a few miles away from the basketball centre in a different town. His parents are immigrants from an African country, work evening jobs and do not own a car. He takes 3 separate buses (a 75-min journey in total) to get to basketball. Aki says that this has made him resourceful and self-reliant, because he cannot just sit around and wait for his mother and father to take him to baskestball. He wishes his parents came to basketball more, however, because he says they struggle to understand why he loves it so much and have tried to talk him out of it a few times; they think it may harm his education.
3.2.2. No Available Mechanism Was Optimised by All Participants
Specific conditions either initiated, postponed or prevented the activation and optimisation of some generative mechanisms. These conditions typically related to the young person’s internal characteristics or assets. Playing level and progression potential are prime examples. High-ability players secured and enjoyed more playing time and, resultingly, higher status. In a virtuous spiral, these players had more exposure to success, meaning their popularity and public and self-esteem rose again. Likewise, coaches saw players’ emotional and cognitive maturity as central to activating some positive mechanisms. Players could be exposed to similar contexts, yet their individual developmental status could produce widely differing outcomes.
“They are all so different and react to things in such a different way that this helps them understand emotions much better. The kids come from very different backgrounds and have very different coping mechanisms.” (Coach Carl)
3.2.3. Psychosocial Outcomes of Participation Were Mediated and Moderated by Individuals’ Social Environments
The quality and intensity of the engagement with these additional contexts plays a powerful role in determining, mitigating or enhancing the impact of sport participation. The club environment either reinforced outcomes that were primed by or already well developed by other environments. For instance, U16 parent Jamal said: “Yes, the club has taught some very good values to Simon, but they ain’t no different to the values we have tried to teach him at home. We wouldn’t have him here if that weren’t the case.” In contrast, for other players, participation in the basketball club compensated for deficiencies in other settings. Antonio, a U14 player who had recently arrived in the UK from a southern European country, was a perfect example. His mum and dad explained:
“Thank goodness for basketball. The poor child arrived with very basic English and terrified of having no friends in this cold country. He was a real sod on the plane and for the first couple of weeks of being in England, until we found this place. The moment he stepped through the doors here his face lit up. He has made lots of friends, regained a lot of confidence and learnt lots of English.”
3.2.4. Critical Life Incidents Condition the Personal Narrative and the Meaning of the Experience
The second phase of the case study offered a privileged window into the personal journey of a number of players and their families who had experienced ‘critical life incidents’ (CLIs). These CLIs included loss of a sibling or parent, parental divorce, family illness, moving to a new country, bullying in school, socioeconomic deprivation, or social isolation, and each played a central role in their personal narrative and how they interpreted their sport experience. CLIs created a strong personal narrative whereby sport was framed as bringing a sense of accomplishment and justice. The narratives found at the club tended to fall into one of two categories: (i) ‘reconstruction’, which was defined as shifting from pain and suffering into happiness and accomplishment; and (ii) ‘against the odds’, which was defined as moving from humble beginnings or disadvantaged situations to high achievement. The below examples portray both narratives.
Reconstruction: Two families in the U13 squad, Amy and Andy and Patricia and Matthew, told harrowing stories. Amy and Andy’s family endured first the loss of a sibling. Then, Amy developed cancer, and recently, a young sibling was badly burnt in a home accident. Matthew and Patricia went through a very traumatic divorce from Matthew’s dad, a violent drug addict. In both cases, basketball became the vehicle through which they tried to rebuild their life. The three key mechanisms linked to this reconstruction process included spending as much time as possible at basketball, finding solace in the social network provided by the centre, and, especially for Andy, experiencing success and enjoyment on a regular basis.
Against the odds: Mikael, a U16 player that had recently migrated to the UK from another European country, provides an example of this narrative. His family originated from a war-torn African country and had fled to Europe looking for asylum. When he arrived in the UK, he spoke no English. Mikael explained how he had always felt he had to work twice as much as everyone else to show them all that he was a worthy human being. In basketball, he had found a welcoming environment where he could excel and be supported by likeminded young people that took him under his wing. Mikael threw everything into basketball, and that ‘under siege’ mentality never left him. Now 18, he is at university and working at a sports goods superstore in town. Basketball was the catalyst for him.
3.3. A Summary Model of Psychosocial Development in a Performance Development Club
Having established a wide range of outcomes, mechanisms and context networks and determined the idiosyncratic nature of development, the next section will present an integrative summary model of psychosocial development as seen in this basketball club (Figure 2
). The model brings together the findings of both phases of the study in a coherent and practical way to aid sport stakeholders in making sense of the full range of factors and processes involved.
3.3.1. The Young Athlete
The model starts by acknowledging that the outcome of the experience of sport is significantly influenced by the internal and external assets at the young person’s disposal, the influence of other developmental contexts, and the personal narrative attached to the sport experience. Any of these factors may be activated to direct specific generative mechanisms to bring or inhibit valued developmental outcomes. Given the range of experiences and the ways in which club experiences may cause activation, every sport experience and trajectory is highly individualised.
3.3.2. A Network of Mechanisms and Outcomes
Four major families of mechanisms were elicited: (i) The Attention Factory; (ii) The Greenhouse for Growth; (iii) The Personal Boost; and (iv) The Real-Life Simulator. The Attention Factory comprises all mechanisms that direct and enhance the players’ focus and thus provide clear direction and objectives in sport and beyond. The Greenhouse for Growth is linked to mechanisms that provide ‘fertile ground conditions’ for positive development, especially such as the club ethos, atmosphere and social support; all require player compliance, meaning that ‘growth’ is readily and easily tested and seen. The Personal Boost refers to features of the experience that increase self-worth, self-esteem and greater personal wellbeing. Lastly, The Real-Life Simulator relates to exposure to situations that replicate adult life. This experience, supported by club-based adults, prepares players to better resolve them in the future.
Although presented in four discrete categories, this case study shows that these mechanisms form a complex network. Mechanisms interact and catalyse in multiple ways to foster or preclude developmental outcomes. Two major principles govern this network: (i) single developmental outcomes are typically affected by a combination of multiple mechanisms; conversely, (ii) single mechanisms are characteristically involved in multiple networks responsible for different outcomes. Establishing causality is challenging and very likely futile if the aim is to find ‘silver bullet’ solutions. Psychosocial development in youth performance settings is a complex multi-level and multi-directional process. The nuanced analysis provided by this case study, however, contributes to making its components more accessible and intelligible.
3.3.3. Personal Development
This investigation confirmed the suitability of the psychosocial developmental outcomes framework created during the literature review stage (see part 1). The five categories of cognitive, emotional, social, moral and self-development appropriately encompass the majority of athletes’ personal outcomes. The study also confirmed a significant level of interdependence between developmental outcomes whereby some outcomes are gatekeepers to the generation of others. Notwithstanding this, each developmental outcome was linked to a set of mechanisms and the preconditions required for their activation and utilisation. The traditional realist evaluation nomenclature of context-mechanism-outcome configurations and catalogues was substituted by the newly coined term ‘context-mechanism-outcome networks’. This term brings to the fore the ambiguous reality of social life where multiple preconditions and generative mechanisms constantly interact in the production of outcomes over time.
3.3.4. Time and Recurrent Experiences
This research underlines the utility of additional time (frequency and duration) spent on engaging with the sport experience. For any type of change or adaptation to occur, sustained exposure to a stimulus is required. The club environment was stimulating in many ways, especially by being time-affluent and experience-rich. Moreover, this near-limitless supply of time facilitated players’ engagement in endless cycles of experience, feedback and attitudinal and behavioural adaptation, while being diverted from other unhelpful behavioural choices. By spending more time at the club experiencing positive growth, they became progressively more skilled in capitalising on opportunities for growth. For players experiencing negative adaptations, opposite pathways prevailed.
3.3.5. The Context
A final piece in the development jigsaw is the multi-layered nature and textured influence of the context for creating and moderating conditions that lead to positive personal development. Pre-existing individual characteristics determine the starting point for growth at the point of joining this club. From there, players engage with the inevitabilities of the club’s day-to-day routines, and this activates important developmental mechanisms. The number and nature of players’ interpersonal relationships within the club and beyond the club combined to impact development. Unsurprisingly, coaches, parents and peers played an essential part in socially-based development. In addition, specific institutional characteristics, including the non-negotiables of a strongly humanistic club philosophy, its ‘cross-roads’ geographic location, and a longstanding commitment to competitiveness, all contributed systems that mandated responsiveness and, therefore, personal development. Likewise, the infrastructure, understood as the external conditions—including levels of funding—all impacted the way the sport was, and this coloured the way players developed. Specifically, the minority and non-professional character of basketball in the United Kingdom created additional drivers for self-sufficiency, resilience and proactivity, all important markers of personal development.