This focus group study examined the sources of enjoyment and nonenjoyment among younger and older English children in the sampling years of sport participation (ages 7–12). Concurrent inductive and deductive content analysis revealed that, consistent with previous research, younger and older children reported sources of enjoyment such as perceived competence, social involvement and friendships, psychosocial support, and a mastery-oriented learning environment. Nonenjoyment sources included inappropriate psychosocial support, increasing competitive orientation, negative feedback and reinforcement, injuries, pain, and demonstrating a lack of competence. Differences between younger and older children’s sources of enjoyment and nonenjoyment also emerged. Younger children reported movement sensations as a source of enjoyment and punishment for skill errors and low informational support as nonenjoyment sources. Older children reported social recognition of competence, encouragement, excitement, and challenge as sources of enjoyment with rivalry, overtraining, and high standards as sources of nonenjoyment. These differences underscore the importance of tailoring youth sport in the sampling years to the needs of the child.
The authors are with the Centre for Sport and Exercise Research, Faculty of Health, Staffordshire University, Stoke-on-Trent, UK.