Perceptions of Collegiate Student-Athletes About Their Youth Sport Specialization or Diversification Process

in Journal of Coaching Education
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The present study addressed the critical question of whether or not sport specialization is necessary for future collegiate participation. Male and female collegiate student-athletes were studied using a mixed method approach (N = 469). Athletes were studied using the Youth Sport Participation Questionnaire. The data obtained from the quantitative items and open-ended survey items were analyzed, triangulated, and summarized. On average, athletes did not specialize in sport until high school (M = 15.47 ± 3.49 years). Comparisons were made between participants using factorial ANOVAs based on gender, sport type and NCAA Division. Two significant first order interactions were noted between: (1) gender and sport type and (2) NCAA Division and sport type (p < .05). Specifically, males and females from individual sports specialized earlier than their counterparts from team sports. The individual sport participants from both Divisions I and III specialized sooner than team sport participants from both divisions. Three main effects also existed for gender, NCAA Division and sport type (p < .05). The perceptions and experiences of student-athletes based were evidence that specializing in sport may not be necessary, despite the increased sense of competition in youth sports. Practical implications will be provided for coaches and youth sport professionals.

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