Click name to view affiliation
Youth sport participation has been found to have many beneficial physical, psychological, and social consequences, as well as risks for those involved. If the benefits are to outweigh the detriments, youth sport must be thoughtfully constructed. Research can play a major role in understanding how to positively structure youth sport. This paper describes how the youth sport landscape has changed over the past 4 decades and how these changes may influence the outcomes of involvement. Critical issues of contemporary concern in youth sport that urgently need scientific attention include physically based issues (e.g., role of youth sport in combating physical inactivity, youth sport injuries), psychological issues (e.g., reducing stress and burnout, enhancing young athletes’ mental health), access and structural issues (e.g., lack of opportunities for poor and less-skilled youth), sport culture issues (e.g., the professionalization of youth sport, child safety, maltreatment and bullying), issues associated with significant others (e.g., coach, sport parent, and peer influences and needs), economic issues (e.g., youth sport as business), governmental and legislative issues (e.g., the need to become more politically active in the setting of policy, legislation, and funding), and translational science and program-evaluation issues (e.g., the need for research dissemination and evaluation research).
The author is the Gwen Norrell Professor of Youth Sport and Student-Athlete Well-Being, Dept. of Kinesiology, Inst. for the Study of Youth Sports, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI.