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Maureen R. Weiss

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Maureen R. Weiss

Children and youth participate in physical activities to develop and demonstrate physical competence, attain social acceptance and approval, and experience enjoyment. Satisfying these motives enhances interest in sustaining physical activity, which contributes to improved motor skills, self-confidence, social relationships, and other positive outcomes. My essay explores motor skill development and youth physical activity through a social psychological lens and the benefits of integrating scientific knowledge from our respective fields to inform research and professional practice. Motor development and sport psychology researchers can collaborate to address critical issues related to motor and perceived competence and physical activity. I recommend five ways for integrating knowledge: (1) applying social psychological theory to guide research questions, (2) using more longitudinal designs, (3) using a variety of quantitative and qualitative methods, (4) designing studies on physical literacy, and (5) employing a positive youth development (PYD) approach for improving motor and social-emotional skills. These efforts can assist teachers, coaches, and parents in creating opportunities for youth to learn and improve fundamental motor and sport skills and to achieve feelings of competence, autonomy, relatedness, and joy for motivating a lifetime of physical activity.

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Maureen R. Weiss

Psychological skills and methods that can be applied to working with children and adolescents in sport are examined from a theory-to-practice as well as a practice-to-theory approach. In addition to an emphasis on the reciprocal nature of theory and practice, the philosophy adopted in this paper includes a focus on personal development rather than performance, and a multidisciplinary or integrated sport science approach to understanding children’s experiences in the physical domain. The types of psychological skills discussed are self-perceptions, motivation, positive attitude, coping with stress, and moral development. Psychological methods include environmental influences such as physical practice methods, coach and parent education, communication styles, and modeling; and individual control strategies in the form of goal setting, relaxation, and mental imagery. Numerous anecdotal stories based on the author’s experiences working with children and adolescents are used to support the major philosophical themes advanced in this paper.

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Maureen R. Weiss

The purpose of this review is to characterize major advancements in the past 40 years of research on youth sport motivation. The author focuses on this period, during which the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports, affiliated researchers, and other scholars contributed to the current state of the field. First, she traces paradigm shifts that represent changes in the philosophy and practice of science in youth sport motivation research. Second, she discusses emergent theoretical perspectives that guided empirical research and produced robust findings on predictors, mediators, and outcomes of motivation. Third, she translates these theories and associated studies to inform evidence-based best practices for youth sport programs. Finally, the author recommends that future research highlight developmental approaches, examine sport as a means of promoting physical activity, and consider multidisciplinary perspectives on conducive topics. By reflecting on paradigm shifts and research trends over time, scholars can meaningfully contribute to an increased understanding of youth sport motivation in the decades to come.