Creating Space, or Just Juggling? Exploring the Adoption of Innovation in Community Sport
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Previous research into community sport organization (CSO) has focused heavily on capacity and resource deficits and the ways in which CSOs manage under these constraints. This study explores mechanisms influencing CSOs as they adopt and implement an innovation: Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD). A critical realist, extensive-intensive design spanning 36 months was used. The first, extensive phase of the study examines the contextual mechanisms influencing the approach of CSOs to adopting the LTAD innovation. Resource dependence and institutional perspectives are integrated to describe the forces acting on CSOs, how these manifest in structures, and how the structures channel the agency of CSO leaders as they work to balance resources and deliver programs. A contextual model of CSO operation under conflicting institutional logics is presented. The second, intensive phase examines the question of how CSOs plan, learn, and consolidate learning into structure as they integrate an innovation. Here, an engaged case study methodology was used to focus on the efforts of a single CSO over a one-year period as it worked to implement LTAD while managing multiple resource constraints. A learning cycle was used to explore processes of embedded agency resulting in structural change. CSOs are conceptualized as juggling resource constraints while balancing conflicting institutional logics: the communitarian logic promoted by resource controllers such as municipalities and Provincial Sport Organizations, and the individualist logic followed by CSO members. The results of the study demonstrate how CSOs compete for resources while balancing these institutional pressures and how when possible, CSOs manipulate institutional factors to gain legitimacy and contingent access to resources. In this competitive environment, LTAD represents a new institutional pressure. CSOs determine whether to adopt LTAD in part based on whether resource controllers signal that compliance will bring legitimacy and enhance resource access. When resource- controlling organizations introduce standards like LTAD intended to improve CSO program quality, the unintended result can be inter-CSO competition for legitimacy that can lead to the systematic privileging of large CSOs at the expense of smaller ones, driving professionalization and potentially increasing costs of sport participation.