Kayleigh O’Donnell – 2022 EPSW Winner of the Best HDR Student Publication


Kayleigh O’Donnell is from the College of Education, Psychology and Social Work and is one of the eight winners of the Best HDR Student Publication Award for 2022. Kayleigh is supervised by Associate Professor Sam Elliot.

The winning publication “Exploring parent and coach relationships in youth sport: A qualitative studysought to explore and understand how parent and coach relationships develop

in youth sport, which provided a unique and much needed perspective, and is the first of its kind to explore how parent and coach relationships develop in youth sport using a sociological theoretical perspective. The research deeply explored the ideas of ‘The importance of credentials’, ‘The intermediary role’, ‘Sharing goals, values, and expectations’, and ‘Managing relational boundaries’, as developed through reflexive thematic analysis. The publication also provided insights and recommendations for parents, coaches, athletes, and youth sporting clubs.

We invited Kayleigh to share her insights into the PhD journey, what winning this award means and what the future holds.

Tell us about your PhD journey so far.

Currently, I have just entered the third year of my PhD journey. So far, I am very much happy with the progress I have made and I am looking to forward to seeing my thesis start to come together. I have managed to find myself with a very supportive group of fellow PhD students and a great supervisor, who have definitely made the journey enjoyable. So far, I have managed to participate in and share my research at the Youth Sport Summit, Beyond the Club podcast, in the Advertiser/Sunday Mail newspaper, and in various radio appearances such as FiveAA and ABC. I have also participated in local (to Flinders!) events such as the HDR conference and 3-Minute Thesis. From this year onwards I would love to share my PhD research at a conference locally, interstate or even internationally, and wrap up with a successful PhD completion in 2024!

What does winning this award mean to you?

It was definitely a shock to get this award! I was notified about winning this award in late December 2022, so at that time it was a great way to end the year. It was also extremely motivating going into 2023 and a nice acknowledgement and reminder of the previous year’s hard work and also to try finish off the PhD strong!

What is your research about?

My research article is namely about the relationship between the parent and coach within youth sport, as it was very much an understudied relationship within the coach-athlete-parent triad (compared to coach-athlete and/or parent-athlete relationships). Understanding this relationship is significant given the behaviours of parents and coaches can determine youth athletes’ enjoyment, motivation, and psychosocial development; and the article provides insights into how youth sporting clubs can be involved in fostering social relationships in youth sport.

What are your future goals and plans? / Where do you see your career heading in the future?

My future goals and plans include continuing a tutoring/teaching role, as I very much enjoy teaching at Flinders University. I would also love to continue conducting research and publishing, possibly exploring other areas within the youth sport/sporting sphere. I would like to collaborate with others and potentially explore emerging and converging areas to that are creative and forward-thinking.  Very many options to consider at this point, and I am open to all opportunities from teaching and research to post-doctorates.

Publication Details:

O’Donnell, K., Elliott, S. K., & Drummond, M. J. (2022).
Exploring parent and coach relationships in youth sport: A qualitative study.
Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health, 14(7), 1023-1044.




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