Examining multi-sport programming for preschoolers: A case study


In 2017, 46% of preschool-aged children (3-4 years of age) participated in organized lessons, leagues, or team sports in Canada (ParticipACTION, 2018), reflecting an increase in structured sport programming for children in their early years. Alongside growing participation rates, continued attention has been given to the merits of early sport diversification (sampling), compared to single-sport participation (specialization) in child and youth sport research and practice (e.g., Côté et al., 2009; Jayanthi et al., 2013; Myer et al., 2016). The purpose of this exploratory case study was to gain understanding of a children's multi-sport (diversification promoting) program in Eastern Ontario geared specifically towards preschoolers. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews with four parents (3 mothers, 1 father; Mage = 35 years), four children aged 3-4 enrolled in a 4-month session, in addition to the program coach; six external researcher observations were also conducted. Thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006) revealed findings related to (a) the programming experience for preschoolers, (b) the program structure and philosophy as delivered by the coaches, and (c) the potential benefits of multi-sport programming for young children (related to accessibility, the development of sport competence, and life-skill acquisition). Results provide in-depth insight into the utility of multi-sport programming as viable early-years sport participation contexts, as well as address areas for improvement, particularly given the importance of quality early learning experiences in sport for long-term participation (Kirk, 2005). Study challenges and limitations related to engaging in research with young children are also discussed.

Acknowledgments: This work was supported by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada under Grant #435-2016-1630, as well as Ontario Graduate Scholars (OGS).