A Qualitative Examination of Psychologically Engaging Sport, Nonsport, and Unstructured Activities

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Research on extracurricular activities emphasizes developmental opportunities for youth. This literature has infrequently considered youth’s psychological engagement or the specific content associated with these opportunities and has primarily been focused on structured rather than unstructured activities. In this qualitative study, 51 youth (age 12–18 years) who were psychologically engaged in structured sport (n = 19), structured nonsport (n = 17), or unstructured (n = 15) activities discussed developmental opportunities and the experiences they associated with them. Youth in all groups reported having developmental opportunities and described experiences emphasizing social interaction, skill-related, emotional impact, and positive outcome themes and an awareness of the positive and negative aspects of some experiences. Each group also reported unique experiences associated with its activities (e.g., structured-sport youth were least likely to indicate they did not like something about their activities). The similarities and differences across groups are discussed, considering factors that might contribute to and promote psychological engagement in extracurricular activities.

Gadbois is with Brandon University, Brandon, MB, Canada. Bowker and Findlay are with Carleton University, Ottawa, ON, Canada. Rose-Krasnor is with the Dept. of Psychology, Brock University, St. Catharines, ON, Canada.

Gadbois (Gadbois@BrandonU.Ca) is corresponding author.
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