Understanding Attrition in Female Competitive Gymnastics: Applying Social Exchange Theory

in Sociology of Sport Journal
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Two components of Gould’s (1987) model for attrition in youth sport appear to lend themselves to sociological analysis and were adopted as theoretical concepts of social exchange theory (Homans, 1961). The constructs were tested and the role of injury was assessed through a questionnaire completed by 76 former female competitive club gymnasts and through semistructured interviews with 10 of these dropouts. Three major findings resulted, with only partial support for the model. The former gymnasts appeared to have a positive perception of their competence as athletes and indicated that the withdrawal had provided them with the desired time for the pursuit of other leisure activities such as hobbies, being with friends and, for the older dropouts, shopping. Injury, even though it was the second most frequent reason for withdrawal, was not seen as a primary cause. The subsumation of achievement and competence as components of social exchange theory provided a plausible framework for the interpretation of the data which demonstrated that the attraction of alternative status cultures was the strongest factor underlying withdrawal.

This research was supported by the Manitoba Artistic Gymnastic Association and the Manitoba Sport Directorate.

The authors are with the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation Studies, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada R3T 2N2.

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