UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

From sampling to specializing : examining youth sport trajectories Rice, Mark Stewart


Background: Youth sport development is often classified into specialized and diversified participation. Diversification is generally advocated before the age of 15 in youth sport development models. However, it has been proposed that there is a gradual shift occurring toward specialization in youth sport such that athletes may be training in a single sport at earlier ages in the pursuit of elite performance. Purpose: The purpose of this collected work was to examine youth athlete development in the context of specialization and diversification in the Canadian province of British Columbia. Methods: The research employed qualitative analysis of athlete developmental documents, online questionnaires, and semi-structured interviews. Results: Analysis of provincial LTAD models generally promote athlete diversification throughout the early stages of development; however, the proposed time requirements indicated by LTAD models may not make it feasible or sustainable for multisport activity. Within the province, it was also shown that parents of youth athletes from a range of sports are reporting multisport participation; however, this multisport participation is often demonstrated by participating in complementary seasonal sports during the traditionally defined off-season of their primary sport. In addition, when examining the athlete’s own experiences of specialization and diversification, the athletes recommended a diversified approach because of its benefits for physical, cognitive, affective, and motor/sport-specific skill development, as well as for social networking. Finally, irrespective of developmental trajectory, the perceived short and long-term impacts of COVID-19 increased with the age of athlete. Conclusion: The findings of this research suggest that the content of LTAD models resonates with youth athletes as a large proportion of athletes report participating in multiple sports throughout the year; however, it is also important to harmonize content and recommendations between provincial LTAD models to support the feasibility of multisport participation. Further, specialization-diversification is not dichotomous, wherein multisport participation may also be characterized by other factors such as seasonal specialization. Youth athletes today are also experiencing unprecedented levels of interruption to their development from the global pandemic, which also raises immediate and long-term concerns for youth athlete development. Understanding this impact is critical to safeguard the developmental trajectories of youth athletes.

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