Past youth sports research studies that have had significant practical and theoretical impact were identified. These investigations were characterized by several features: (a) asking questions of practical importance, (b) integrating previous research or theory into the designs, (c) employing adequate methodological procedures and sample sizes, and (d) answering questions through series of interrelated investigations. In contrast, youth sports studies that did not have as much impact did not reflect many of these characteristics. Based on these findings, future directions in youth sports research were identified. It was concluded that if the sport psychologist is to conduct socially significant research that will make contributions to those involved in youth sports, three issues must be addressed. First, critical questions of practical significance must be identified. In an effort to identify these issues the results of a survey on psychological topics of practical significance to youth sport personnel was presented. In addition, beneficial and detrimental aspects of theory testing are outlined as well as the role of strong inference in conducting youth sports research. The second issue addressed is the use of varied types of research in studying youth sports. It is argued that descriptive, evaluation, and systems approach research are all needed and examples of each type of research are presented. The third issue examined is the need for a shift in methodological approaches when conducting youth sports research. Sport psychologists must realize that no single method is always best, and varied as well as innovative methodological procedures must be employed. The need to shift from a linear causation and convenient ANOVA categories model to a multidisciplinary, multivariate, and longitudinal approach is suggested.
The author would like to thank Larry Brawley, Deborah Feltz, Julie Simon, Michael Passer, Thelma Horn, and Maureen Weiss for their comments on an earlier version of this paper. Requests for reprints should be sent to Daniel Gould, Department of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation, Ahearn Gymnasium, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506.