An exploration of a traceur's experience of lack of progression in parkour: a grounded theory study

Torchia, Kasturi D. (2021) An exploration of a traceur's experience of lack of progression in parkour: a grounded theory study. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


Parkour is an exciting, complex and at times risky art form in the sporting world. Officially incorporated as a sport in the UK in 2017 (Parkour UK, 2019) but born in France almost 30 years ago (Belle, 2009). Parkour consists of practitioners finding a route through predominantly urban terrain, mastering various physical and psychological skills to overcome obstacles in the most efficient, effective way possible (Belle, 2009). Although initially proposed as a noncompetitive discipline, it is now headed for the Olympics in 2022 (Gillen, 2020). Possibly due to the relative novelty of parkour and the buzz surrounding it, little to no research to date has reviewed the deterrents, hurdles and various physical, mental, emotional and social stressors that practitioners may experience during parkour training, that is in direct relationship with the discipline’s practice and delivery hurdles.

The main aim of this study was to explore accounts of parkour practitioners who no longer engage in the sport, to gain deeper insight into their experience of parkour training and the processes leading up to their stopping. The subsequent aim was to co-construct an explanatory grounded theory (GT) of the process. The study adopted a social constructivist GT methodology (Charmaz, 2010), initially using purposeful sampling, and recruiting four parkour practitioners. Refining the developing theory further, theoretical sampling was adopted, recruiting four further parkour practitioners and one gymnast for theoretical sampling. Overall, nine participants informed the co-constructed final GT model.

The psychosocioemotional process co-constructed from the data indicated that participants experienced several forms of losses that were paradoxical. The losses could be attributed to an experience opposite to that anticipated, which in turn, over time, cost them a lack of progression (LoP) as opposed to meeting their needs. This led to such a significant struggle, it forced them to cope in various ways, eventually resulting in a behavioural outcome of stopping training or contemplative re-entry. Participants, therefore, appeared to suffer a complex process of ‘paradoxically losing while journeying through parkour’, influenced by the factors that had initially influenced them to enter parkour. The intrapsychic conflict of ‘anticipated gaining’ through parkour practice versus ‘risk of losing’ appeared to lead to a rupture in their sense of self.

The findings from this study provide very important insights into parkour practitioners experiences of LoP, the re-traumatisation that seems to occur, the rupture participants often experienced in their sense of self, and the important recommendations that participants and researcher believed could help reduce such outcomes in the future. A longitudinal, traumabased, person-centred model of LoP such as the one proposed in this thesis could help inform practitioners, coaches and counselling or other psychological professionals who are involved primarily in parkour, and beyond. This study’s conceptualisation of a parkour specific model, informed by pluralistic counselling psychology is particularly important as the sport moves towards elite competition. Additionally, it adds to existing sports stress and burnout management literature. The translational implication of this LoP model could lead to more systemic changes in sports culture as well as increased congruence within parkour multidisciplinary team structures. The LoP model potentially enhances intervention delivery within and outside of competition resulting in more holistic coaching practices, increasing practitioner training satisfaction and overall partitioner well-being.

Full implications for practice, training and the counselling/psychological profession will be discussed further, in addition to the study’s limitations and recommendations for further research.

Torchia-Kasturi_DCouPsy-thesis-submission.pdf - Published Version

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