A review of trends in youth sport psychology research


The purpose of this study was to review trends in youth sport psychology research. Four major sport psychology journals (The Sport Psychologist, the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology and Psychology of Sport and Exercise) were reviewed to identify studies of youth sport. Articles were included based on the age of the sport participants (age range= 5-18 years) and their involvement in organized youth sport. The title, abstract, and contents of each article were analyzed to derive the main themes, which were then organized by journal and decade of publication. A total of 3079 articles containing original data were published in the journals over a span of 35 years with 470 articles meeting the inclusion criteria. Articles on motivation (n=91), social influences (n=84), anxiety/stress (n=47) and self-perceptions (n=43) appeared most frequently across all four journals. We assumed the number of articles published on a particular topic reflected interest in that topic within the discipline of sport psychology. Hence, a decrease in the number of articles about motivation and an increase in the number of social influence articles published in the last decade would indicate that motivation is a topic that has been exhausted by youth sport researchers while research on social influences is an emerging trend. The findings generate a discussion on why such trends occur and what impact they have on future research.