Examining differences in program quality across competitive and recreational youth sport programs


Research in the context of youth sport has shown that youth can develop a number of positive developmental outcomes as a result of participation. However, it is also recognized that negative outcomes may also result from participation. Accordingly, researchers contend that it is how the youth sport context is structured, in other words the quality of the program, that determines the influence participation has on development. Little research has directly examined program quality (PQ) in youth sport, and in particular, the differences between competitive and recreational sport programs. Given that competitive sport can have higher levels of stress and pressure compared to recreational programs and this high stress and pressure has been linked to burnout and dropout, more research in this area is warranted. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine differences in PQ across competitive and recreational youth sport programs. Program quality was assessed quantitatively from two perspectives: observations conducted by researchers using the Program Quality Assessment in Youth Sport and youth self-report using the Adolescent Program Quality Survey. Observations and questionnaires were completed across a variety of sport programs for youth between 10 and 17 years of age. Significant differences between these contexts were found on eight subscales of PQ based on researchers' observed PQ. Moreover, significant differences were found on two subscales of PQ based on youths' perceptions. Findings outline important practical implications as it relates to structuring youth sport programs based on the level of competition.

Acknowledgments: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada