Repairing relationship conflict in community sport work: “Offender” perspectives

Laura Gale, Ben Ives, Paul Potrac, LEE NELSON*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

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Through our investigation of relationship conflict and repair in community sport coaching this article makes a novel contribution to the sociology of sport work. Such inquiry is necessary as interpersonal conflict has the potential to erode worker commitment, engagement, performance, satisfaction, and mental health. To date, the study of interpersonal conflict in coaching has been framed psychologically (e.g., Wachsmuth, Jowett, Harwood 2017, 2018a, 2018b; Smith and Arthur 2021). It is our position that sociologically inspired inquiry is not only necessary but can valuably contribute to academic debate in this area. To redress this situation we conducted in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 18 community sport coaches to produce rich insights into the participants’ (transgressors) understandings of fractured workplace relations, remedial work used to repair and restore relationships, as well as desirable and undesirable consequences emanating from these restorative efforts. Through our application of theorisation addressing restoration mechanisms (i.e., Goffman 1967, 1971; Ren and Gray 2009) the present study extends existing understanding by detailing how a) relationship conflict was triggered by the participants violating the identity and control of significant working others, b) participants attempted to repair relations by offering accounts, apologies, and demonstrations of concern, and c) the success of these restorative efforts was variable and dependent on their being accepted by the offended parties. It is our hope that these original empirical and theoretical insights not only advance understanding about relationship conflict and repair but prompt further sociologically inspired research into this important interpersonal aspect of sport work.
Original languageEnglish
JournalQualitiative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health
Early online date6 Oct 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Oct 2022


  • Sport work
  • relationship conflict
  • relationship restoration
  • identity violation
  • violation of control
  • corrective process

Research Groups

  • Practice in Coaching & Teaching


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