Toward Understanding Youth Athletes’ Fun Priorities: An Investigation of Sex, Age, and Levels of Play

in Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal
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Colloquial conjecture asserts perceptions of difference in what is more or less important to youth athletes based on binary categorization, such as sex (girls vs. boys), age (younger vs. older), and level of competitive play (recreational vs. travel). The fun integration theory’s FUN MAPS, which identify 11 fun-factors comprised of 81 fun-determinants, offers a robust framework from which to test these conceptions related to fun. Therefore, the purposes of this study were to scientifically explore: (a) the extent to which soccer players’ prioritization of the 11 fun-factors and 81 fun-determinants were consistent with the gender differences hypothesis or the gender similarities hypothesis, and (b) how their fun priorities evolved as a function of their age and level of play. Players’ (n = 141) data were selected from the larger database that originally informed the conceptualization of the fun integration theory’s FUN MAPS. Following selection, innovative pattern match displays and go-zone displays were produced to identify discrete points of consensus and discordance between groups. Regardless of sex, age, or level of play, results indicated extraordinarily high consensus among the players’ reported importance of the fun-factors (r = .90–.97) and fun-determinants (r = .92–.93), which were consistently grouped within strata of primary, secondary, and tertiary importance. Overall, results were consistent with the gender similarities hypothesis, thereby providing the first data to dispel common conceptions about what is most fun with respect to sex, in addition to age and level of play, in a sample of youth soccer players.

Visek, Mannix, and DiPietro are with the Department of Exercise & Nutrition Sciences, Milken Institute School of Public Health, The George Washington University, Washington, DC. Chandran is with the Department of Exercise & Sport Science, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC. Cleary is with the Department of Epidemiology, Milken Institute School of Public Health, The George Washington University, Washington, DC. McDonnell is with the Department of Prevention & Community Health, Milken Institute School of Public Health, The George Washington University, Washington, DC.

Visek (avisek@gwu.edu) is corresponding author.

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