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Amanda J. Visek, Heather Mannix, Avinash Chandran, Sean D. Cleary, Karen A. McDonnell and Loretta DiPietro

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.

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Amanda J. Visek, Sara M. Achrati, Heather M. Mannix, Karen McDonnell, Brandonn S. Harris and Loretta DiPietro

Background:

Children cite “fun” as the primary reason for participation in organized sport and its absence as the number-one reason for youth sport attrition. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to develop a theoretical framework of fun using a novel mixed-method assessment of participants in sport (FUN MAPS) via concept mapping.

Methods:

Youth soccer players (n = 142), coaches (n = 37), and parents (n = 57) were stratified by age, sex, and competition level and contributed their ideas through (a) qualitative brainstorming, identifying all of the things that make playing sports fun for players; (b) sorting of ideas; and (c) rating each idea on its importance, frequency, and feasibility.

Results:

The FUN MAPS identify the 4 fundamental tenets of fun in youth sport within 11 fun-dimensions composed of 81 specific fun-determinants, while also establishing the youth sport ethos.

Conclusion:

The FUN MAPS provide pictorial evidence-based blueprints for the fun integration theory (FIT), which is a multitheoretical, multidimensional, and stakeholder derived framework that can be used to maximize fun for children and adolescents to promote and sustain an active and healthy lifestyle through sport.