The purpose of this study was to examine identity and spectator/fan communication at youth sporting events. Data were collected through naturalistic observation of 44 youth sporting events. The median age range of the athletes was 6–11 years. Critical discourse analysis revealed the enactment of overlapping and conflicting identities (sports fan/spectator, coach, and parent) and the re/production of the ideology of winning (at all costs) and aggressive competition, rather than participation, support, and "unconditional" encouragement. In particular, the enactment or performance of sports identities, including identification with athletes, was observed to overlap with the enactment of parental identities and identification with children in ways that suggested that the salient issue was enhancement of parent self-categorization as sports spectator/fan, coach, and parent of a great athlete through the success of the child-athlete. That is, talk and identity performance were less about the children and more about parents’ identities.
Keywords: spectators, fans, parents, youth sports