Tykes and timbits: Exploring objectives and outcomes of preschooler sport


In recent years, there appears to be a trend towards children participating in sport at increasingly early ages, yet developmental outcomes of sport participation have been examined primarily among older children and adolescents (Fraser-Thomas et al., 2005). This study explored the perceived objectives and outcomes of preschooler sport. Eight childcare providers, 19 parents, and 57 preschoolers (aged 2-5 years) from three urban centres in southern Ontario engaged in interviews and focus groups, centered on their experiences with preschooler sport. Content analysis was inductive and deductive, guided by key concepts of the Developmental Model of Sport Participation (Côté & Fraser-Thomas, 2015) and the Long Term Athlete Development Model (LTAD, Canadian Sport for Life, 2015). Findings reflect perceived objectives and outcomes paralleling those of youth sport. Participants spoke most prominently about preschooler sport as a platform for psychosocial and life skill development (i.e., interpersonal skills, confidence, competence, being a team player, learning to win and lose), in addition to being a pathway to physical health and motor skill development; however, there was often little consensus on whether developmental outcomes were actually attained, and what the mechanisms and processes were within preschooler sport, which facilitated such development. For example, it was suggested that most preschoolers were unable to cognitively process complexities of cooperative play required to be a team player. We conclude that while preschooler sport may facilitate positive development, policies, programming, and coaching modifications are required to consistently assure beneficial outcomes, while considerable research is necessary to assess the effectiveness of programs moving forward.