“Specializers” versus “Samplers” in Youth Sport: Comparing Experiences and Outcomes

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Leisha Strachan Queen’s University

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Jean Côté Queen’s University

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Janice Deakin Queen’s University

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The purpose of the current study was to examine two different trajectories of sport participation and explore any similarities or differences that may result regarding personal development and sport outcomes. Seventy-four youth athletes (40 “specializers” and 34 “samplers”) were recruited for the current study and four measures were employed to assess sport experiences and outcomes. Discriminant function analyses revealed no differences between groups in asset possession or sources of enjoyment however, differences were reported in sport experiences and burnout. The “samplers” reported more experiences regarding the integration of sport and family as well as linkages to the community. Although the “specializers” reported higher levels of physical/emotional exhaustion than did the “samplers,” they also reported more experiences related to diverse peer groups. The differences highlight the importance of examining specific pathways of development in sport to gain a deeper understanding of youths’ experiences in sport.

Strachan, Côté, and Deakin are with the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada K7L 3N6.

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