The Perceptions of the Best Portuguese Coaches about Dropout and Persistence in Women’s Artistic Gymnasts

  •  Artur Pereira    
  •  Ana Faro    
  •  David Stotlar    
  •  Antonio Fonseca    


The purpose of the present investigation was to study the perceptions of the best Portuguese coaches of women’s
artistic gymnastics on athletes’ persistence and dropout behaviors. Semi-structured interviews were applied to
obtain the coaches’ (n=8) accounts on why athletes persisted in or dropped out of gymnastics, and what lead
parents to maintain or remove their daughters from gymnastics. In both cases, two distinct time periods were
distinguished: “at the beginning of the career” and “throughout the career”. Additionally, coaches were also
questioned as to the factors underlying athletes’ success in gymnastics. Results showed that, in the opinion of
coaches, the decision to dropout or persist, whether it emanated from the athletes or their parents, stemmed from
multiple causes. Nevertheless, the rigorous physical and psychological demands of the training process, and the
conflict of those demands with work, study and family commitments, were often strong motives for athletes’ and
parents’ dissatisfaction. Contrariwise, the enjoyment derived through the involvement in gymnastics,
competitive ambition and the experience of success were some of the main motives attributed to athletes’
persistence in gymnastics. Regarding parents, gymnastics began as a way to fill up their daughters’ free time and
as a means to promote their comprehensive education. However, in time, gymnastics seemed to become a means
of social affirmation and an outlet for parents’ personal frustrations. Finally, coaches stressed the importance, for
success in women’s gymnastics, of successful competitive results and enjoyment, as well as the human and
social circumstances surrounding the athletes.

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