Youth Sport Motivation and Participation: Paradigms, Perspectives, and Practicalities

in Kinesiology Review
Restricted access

Purchase article

USD  $24.95

Student 1 year subscription

USD  $41.00

1 year subscription

USD  $54.00

Student 2 year subscription

USD  $77.00

2 year subscription

USD  $101.00

The purpose of this review is to characterize major advancements in the past 40 years of research on youth sport motivation. The author focuses on this period, during which the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports, affiliated researchers, and other scholars contributed to the current state of the field. First, she traces paradigm shifts that represent changes in the philosophy and practice of science in youth sport motivation research. Second, she discusses emergent theoretical perspectives that guided empirical research and produced robust findings on predictors, mediators, and outcomes of motivation. Third, she translates these theories and associated studies to inform evidence-based best practices for youth sport programs. Finally, the author recommends that future research highlight developmental approaches, examine sport as a means of promoting physical activity, and consider multidisciplinary perspectives on conducive topics. By reflecting on paradigm shifts and research trends over time, scholars can meaningfully contribute to an increased understanding of youth sport motivation in the decades to come.

The author is with the School of Kinesiology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN.

Address author correspondence to mrweiss@umn.edu.
  • Alderman, R.B., & Wood, N.L. (1976). An analysis of incentive motivation in young Canadian athletes. Canadian Journal of Applied Sport Sciences, 1, 169–175.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Amorose, A.J. (2007). Coaching effectiveness: Exploring the relationship between coaching behavior and motivation from a self-determination theory perspective. In M.S. Hagger & N.L.D. Chatzisarantis (Eds.), Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in exercise and sport (pp. 209–227). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Anderson-Butcher, D., Riley, A., Amorose, A., Iachini, A., & Wade-Mdivanian, R. (2014). Maximizing youth experiences in community sport settings: The design and impact of the LiFE sports camp. Journal of Sport Management, 28, 236–249. doi:10.1123/jsm.2012-0237

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Brustad, R.J. (1992). Integrating socialization influences into the study of children’s motivation in sport. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 14, 59–77. doi:10.1123/jsep.14.1.59

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Brustad, R.J. (2010). The role of family in promoting physical activity. President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports Research Digest, Series, 10(3), 1–8. PubMed ID: 31166797

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Brustad, R.J., Vilhalmsson, R., & Fonseca, A.M. (2008). Organized sport and physical activity promotion. In A.L. Smith & S.J.H. Biddle (Eds.), Youth physical activity and sedentary behavior (pp. 351–375). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Deci, E.L., & Ryan, R.M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York, NY: Plenum.

  • Eccles, J.S., Adler, T.E., Futterman, R., Goff, S.B., Kaczala, C.M., Meece, J.L., & Midgley, C. (1983). Expectancies, values, and academic behaviors. In J.T. Spence (Ed.), Achievement and achievement motivation (pp. 75–146). San Francisco, CA: W.H. Freeman.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Fredricks, J.A., & Eccles, J.S. (2004). Parental influences on youth involvement in sports. In M.R. Weiss (Ed.), Developmental sport and exercise psychology: A lifespan perspective (pp. 145–164). Morgantown, WV: Fitness Information Technology.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gill, D.L., Gross, J.B., & Huddleston, S. (1983). Participation motivation in youth sports. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 14, 1–14.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gill, D.L., Williams, L., & Reifsteck, E.J. (Eds.). (2017). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise (4th ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gould, D. (1982). Sport psychology in the 1980s: Status, direction, and challenge in youth sports research. Journal of Sport Psychology, 4, 203–218. doi:10.1123/jsp.4.3.203

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gould, D. (2013). Effective education and development of youth sport coaches. President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports Research Digest, Series, 14(4), 1–10. PubMed ID: 31166797

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gould, D., Feltz, D., Horn, T., & Weiss, M. (1982). Reasons for attrition in competitive youth swimming. Journal of Sport Behavior, 5, 155–165.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gould, D., Feltz, D., & Weiss, M. (1985). Motives for participating in competitive youth swimming. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 16, 126–140.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gould, D., Feltz, D., Weiss, M., & Petlichkoff, L. (1982). Participation motives in competitive youth swimmers. In T. Orlick, J.T. Partington, & J.H. Salmela (Eds.), Mental training for coaches and athletes (pp. 57–59). Ottawa, ON: Coaching Association of Canada.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Gould, D.R. (2016). Leadership as a life skill in youth sports. In N.L. Holt (Ed.), Positive youth development through sport (2nd ed., pp. 151–167). London, UK: Routledge.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Harter, S. (1978). Effectance motivation reconsidered: Toward a developmental model. Human Development, 21, 34–64. doi:10.1159/000271574

  • Harwood, C., Spray, C.M., & Keegan, R. (2008). Achievement goal theories in sport. In T.S. Horn (Ed.), Advances in sport psychology (2nd ed., pp. 157–185). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Harwood, C.G., Keegan, R., Smith, J.M.J., & Raine, A.S. (2015). A systematic review of the intrapersonal correlates of motivational climate perceptions in sport and physical activity. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 18, 9–25. doi:10.1016/j.psychsport.2014.11.005

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Harwood, C.G., Knight, C.J., Thrower, S.N., & Berrow, S.R. (2019). Advancing the study of parental involvement to optimise the psychosocial development and experiences of young athletes. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 42, 66–73. doi:10.1016/j.psychsport.2019.01.007

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hellison, D.R. (2011). Teaching personal and social responsibility through physical activity. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

  • Holt, N.L., Pynn, S., Pankow, K., Neely, K.C., Carson, V., & Ingstrup, M. (2019). Family influences on active free play and youth sport. In T.S. Horn & A.L. Smith (Eds.), Advances in sport and exercise psychology (4th ed., pp. 117–132). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Horn, T.S. (2004a). Developmental perspectives on self-perceptions in children and adolescents. In M.R. Weiss (Ed.), Developmental sport and exercise psychology: A lifespan perspective (pp. 101–143). Morgantown, WV: Fitness Information Technology.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Horn, T.S. (2004b). Lifespan development in sport and exercise psychology: Theoretical perspectives. In M.R. Weiss (Ed.), Developmental sport and exercise psychology: A lifespan perspective (pp. 27–71). Morgantown, WV: Fitness Information Technology.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Horn, T.S. (2008). Coaching effectiveness in the sport domain. In T.S. Horn (Ed.), Advances in sport psychology (pp. 239–267). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Horn, T.S. (2015). Social psychological and developmental perspectives on early sport specialization. Kinesiology Review, 4, 248–266. doi:10.1123/kr.2015-0025

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Horn, T.S. (2019). Learning to take joy and perceive competence in physical movement: Origins in early childhood. Kinesiology Review, 8, 40–47. doi:10.1123/kr.2018-0059

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Horn, T.S., & Horn, J.L. (2007). Family influences on children’s sport and physical activity participation, behavior, and psychosocial responses. In G. Tenenbaum & R.C. Eklund (Eds.), Handbook of sport psychology (3rd ed., pp. 685–711). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Horn, T.S., Lox, C.L., & Labrador, F. (2015). The self-fulfilling prophecy theory: When coaches’ expectations become reality. In J.M. Williams & V. Krane (Eds.), Applied sport psychology: Personal growth to peak performance (7th ed., pp. 78–100). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Horn, T.S., & Newton, J.L. (2019). Developmentally based perspectives on motivated behavior in sport and physical activity contexts. In T.S. Horn & A.L. Smith (Eds.), Advances in sport and exercise psychology (4th ed., pp. 313–331). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Horn, T.S., & Weiss, M.R. (1991). A developmental analysis of children’s self-ability judgments in the physical domain. Pediatric Exercise Science, 3, 310–326. doi:10.1123/pes.3.4.310

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kipp, L.E. (2017). Developmental considerations for working with youth athletes. In C.J. Knight, C.G. Harwood, & D. Gould (Eds.), Sport psychology for young athletes (pp. 32–42). New York, NY: Routledge.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kipp, L.E., & Weiss, M.R. (2013). Social influences, psychological need satisfaction, and well-being among female adolescent gymnasts. Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology, 2, 62–75. doi:10.1037/a0030236

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Klint, K.A., & Weiss, M.R. (1986). Dropping in and dropping out: Participation motives of current and former youth gymnasts. Canadian Journal of Applied Sport Sciences, 11, 106–114.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Landers, D.M. (1983). Whatever happened to theory testing in sport psychology? Journal of Sport Psychology, 5, 135–151. doi:10.1123/jsp.5.2.135

  • Longhurst, K., & Spink, K.S. (1987). Participation motivation of Australian children involved in organized sport. Canadian Journal of Sport Sciences, 12, 24–30. PubMed ID: 3594314

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • National Physical Activity Plan. (2016). Retrieved from www.physicalactivityplan.org, February 24, 2019.

  • Nicholls, J.D. (1984). Achievement motivation: Conceptions of ability, subjective experience, task choice, and performance. Psychological Review, 91, 328–346. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.91.3.328

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Pfeiffer, K.A., & Wierenga, M.J. (2019). Sport for all: Promoting physical activity through youth sports. Kinesiology Review, 8. doi:10.1123/kr.2019-0033

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee. (2018). 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee scientific report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Seefeldt, V. (1987). Handbook for youth sport coaches. Reston, VA: American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Smith, A.L. (1999). Perceptions of peer relationships and physical activity participation in early adolescence. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 21, 329–350. doi:10.1123/jsep.21.4.329

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Smith, A.L. (2007). Youth peer relationships in sport. In S. Jowett & D. Lavallee (Eds.), Social psychology in sport (pp. 41–54). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Smith, A.L., Mellano, K.T., & Ullrich-French, S. (2019). Peers and psychological experiences in physical activity settings. In T.S. Horn & A.L. Smith (Eds.), Advances in sport and exercise psychology (4th ed., pp. 133–150). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Smith, R.E. (2015). A positive approach to coaching effectiveness and performance enhancement. In J.M. Williams & V. Krane (Eds.), Applied sport psychology: Personal growth to peak performance (7th ed., pp. 40–56). Palo Alto, CA: Mayfield.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Smith, R.E., & Smoll, F.L. (2007). Social-cognitive approach to coaching behaviors. In S. Jowett & D. Lavallee (Eds.), Social psychology in sport (pp. 75–90). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Standage, M. (2012). Motivation: Self-determination theory and performance in sport. In S.M. Murphy (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of sport and performance psychology (pp. 233–249). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Stuntz, C.P., & Weiss, M.R. (2010). Motivating children and adolescents to sustain a physically active lifestyle. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 4, 433–444. doi:10.1177/1559827610368779

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Vazou, S., Ntoumanis, N., & Duda, J.L. (2005). Peer motivational climate in youth sport: A qualitative inquiry. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 6, 497–516. doi:10.1016/j.psychsport.2004.03.005

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Vealey, R.S. (2006). Smocks and jocks outside the box: The paradigmatic evolution of sport and exercise psychology. Quest, 58, 128–159. doi:10.1080/00336297.2006.10491876

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Weiss, M.R. (2000). Motivating kids in physical activity. President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports Research Digest, 3(11), 1–8. PubMed ID: 31166797

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Weiss, M.R. (Ed.). (2004). Developmental sport and exercise psychology: A lifespan perspective. Morgantown, WV: Fitness Information Technology.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Weiss, M.R. (2008a). “Field of Dreams”: Sport as a context for youth development. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 79, 434–449. doi:10.1080/02701367.2008.10599510

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Weiss, M.R. (2008b). “Riding the wave”: Transforming sport and exercise psychology within an interdisciplinary vision. Quest, 60, 64–84.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Weiss, M.R. (2013). Back to the future: Research trends in youth motivation and physical activity. Pediatric Exercise Science, 25, 561–572. PubMed ID: 24214439. doi:10.1123/pes.25.4.561

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Weiss, M.R. (2016). Old wine in a new bottle: Historical reflections on sport as a context for youth development. In N.L. Holt (Ed.), Positive youth development through sport (2nd ed., pp. 7–20). London, UK: Routledge.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Weiss, M.R. (2019). Positive youth development through physical activity: Progress, puzzles, and promise. In T.S. Horn & A.L. Smith (Eds.), Advances in sport and exercise psychology (4th ed., pp. 483–502). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Weiss, M.R., & Amorose, A.J. (2008). Motivational orientations and sport behavior. In T.S. Horn (Ed.), Advances in sport psychology (2nd ed., pp. 115–155). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Weiss, M.R., Amorose, A.J., & Kipp, L.E. (2012). Youth motivation and participation in sport and physical activity. In R.M. Ryan (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of human motivation (pp. 520–553). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Weiss, M.R., Bolter, N.D., & Kipp, L.E. (2014). Assessing impact of physical activity-based youth development programs: Validation of the Life Skills Transfer Survey (LSTS). Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 85, 263–278. PubMed ID: 25141078. doi:10.1080/02701367.2014.931558

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Weiss, M.R., Bolter, N.D., & Kipp, L.E. (2016). Evaluation of The First Tee in promoting positive youth development: Group comparisons and longitudinal trends. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 87, 271–283. PubMed ID: 27142299. doi:10.1080/02701367.2016.1172698

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Weiss, M.R., & Bredemeier, B.J. (1983). Developmental sport psychology: A theoretical perspective for studying children in sport. Journal of Sport Psychology, 5, 216–230. doi:10.1123/jsp.5.2.216

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Weiss, M.R., & Kipp, L.E. (2018). Social relationships rock! How parents, coaches, and peers can optimize girls’ psychological development through sport and physical activity. In N.M. LaVoi (Ed.), Developing physically active girls: An evidence-based multidisciplinary approach (pp. 37–54). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Weiss, M.R., Kipp, L.E., Phillips Reichter, A., Espinoza, S.M., & Bolter, N.D. (In press). Girls on the Run: Impact of a physical activity youth development program on psychosocial and behavioral outcomes. Pediatric Exercise Science. doi:10.1123/pes.2018-0168

    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Weiss, M.R., & Petlichkoff, L.M. (1989). Children’s motivation for participation in and withdrawal from sport: Identifying the missing links. Pediatric Exercise Science, 1, 195–211. doi:10.1123/pes.1.3.195

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Weiss, M.R., & Phillips, A.C. (2015). Motivation in youth sport and physical activity: Developmental perspectives. In J.D. Wright (Ed.), International encyclopedia of social & behavioral science (2nd ed., Vol. 15, pp. 914–920). Oxford, UK: Elsevier.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Weiss, M.R., & Raedeke, T.D. (2004). Developmental sport psychology: Research status on youth and directions toward a lifespan perspective. In M.R. Weiss (Ed.), Developmental sport and exercise psychology: A lifespan perspective (pp. 1–26). Morgantown, WV: Fitness Information Technology.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Weiss, M.R., & Stuntz, C.P. (2004). A little friendly competition: Peer relationships and psychosocial development in youth sport and physical activity contexts. In M.R. Weiss (Ed.), Developmental sport and exercise psychology: A lifespan perspective (pp. 165–196). Morgantown, WV: Fitness Information Technology.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Weiss, M.R., Stuntz, C.P., Bhalla, J.A., Bolter, N.D., & Price, M.S. (2013). ‘More than a game’: Impact of The First Tee life skills programme on positive youth development: Project introduction and Year 1 findings. Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health, 5, 214–244. doi:10.1080/2159676X.2012.712997

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Weiss, M.R., & Wiese-Bjornstal, D.M. (2009). Promoting positive youth development through physical activity. President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports Research Digest, 10(3), 1–8. PubMed ID: 31166797

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Weiss, M.R., & Williams, L. (2004). The why of youth sport involvement: A developmental perspective on motivational processes. In M.R. Weiss (Ed.), Developmental sport and exercise psychology: A lifespan perspective (pp. 223–268). Morgantown, WV: Fitness Information Technology.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Wiggins, D.K. (2013). A worthwhile effort? History of organized youth sport in the United States. Kinesiology Review, 2, 65–75. doi:10.1123/krj.2.1.65

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 155 155 45
Full Text Views 18 18 2
PDF Downloads 12 12 2