Onboarding support systems into elite sport organizations
Onboarding is a term used to describe the process of socialization for new members into an established group or organization. Across an extensive body of literature from organizational settings, and more recently sport settings, there is relative consensus that effective practices can result in numerous positive outcomes for both the incoming individual and the organization. It is interesting to note, however, that current onboarding frameworks focus predominantly on the individual being integrated and do not describe the onboarding experiences of other relevant people involved in the process. For instance, professional athletes that are transitioning to a new team are often accompanied by a support network (e.g., parents, significant other, siblings), who also experience stressors during transition periods. Despite their salient role in the transition process and evidence that suggests their ability to aid the athlete (Poczwardowski et al., 2014), little is known of how organizations engage them in the onboarding process. This thesis addresses this gap in the literature by exploring onboarding experiences for support network individuals in a professional sport context (i.e., National Basketball Association). A qualitative study was conducted using semi-structured interviews with individuals who had been involved with/experienced the onboarding of support networks. These participants included organizational representatives (n = 11), athletes (n = 5), and support individuals (n = 6). Findings demonstrated the importance of communicating, valuing, and mentoring for successful onboarding and noted several considerations (e.g., timing, acquisition type) and barriers (e.g., member turnover, status hierarchy). Ultimately, it was evident that although organizations strove to onboard support networks properly, none prioritized the task or had a systematic process in place. These findings will be described in relation to the broader onboarding literature, strengths and limitations will be discussed, and future directions will be proposed.