Examining factors associated with positive development among varsity athletes


Over the past several years there has been a growing focus on sport as a context to facilitate positive development among youth (Holt et al., in press), but much less research has focused on emerging adults. While varsity athletes often become successful contributing members of society (Roth & Clarke, 1998), little research has explored factors and processes that may contribute to these positive outcomes. The purpose of this study was to examine factors within inter-university sport that may be facilitating positive developmental outcomes. Participants included 198 varsity athletes from one of Canada's largest universities (MAGE=20.5, 44.4% female, MVARSITY YEARS=2.2). Participants completed a questionnaire gathering information on demographics, use of academic advising, extracurricular involvement, sport-related experiences, coaching, and positive youth development (PYD) outcomes (i.e., 5Cs of competence, confidence, connections, character, caring; Lerner et al., 2005). Grade point average (GPA) was retrieved through the University Athletics Department. To examine factors associated with the 5Cs of PYD, five separate multiple binary logistic regressions were conducted. Several factors were associated with higher PYD (5Cs) scores including sex (female), personal and social skills, goal setting skills, utilization of academic advising, distance of hometown from the university (farther) and hometown population (larger). To examine factors associated with GPA, a stepwise linear regression was conducted, with sex (female) and athletic performance (higher) predicting higher GPA. Findings are contextualized within PYD, emerging adulthood, and sport development literature. Implications for coaches, sport administrators and institutions on how to optimize the overall development of varsity athletes are discussed.