Life skills development in young high-level athletes


The purpose of this study was to examine the development of life skills through sport participation among young high-level athletes. We focused on what life skills are developed, how they are learned, and how life skills learned in sport are transferred to other contexts. Data were collected through individual semi-structured interviews with nine athletes (5 female, 4 male, M age = 19.2 years, SD = 1.2) from the Canadian junior biathlon national team. Data were analyzed using interpretive description methodology. Participants reported examples of learning life skills in multiple contexts (i.e., school, work, home). Within the sporting context, interactions with social agents (i.e., parents, coaches, peers) created a positive youth development (PYD) climate that appeared to facilitate the development of life skills. Within the PYD climate, the learning and transfer of life skills appeared to occur through primarily implicit processes, involving observational learning and reflection on experience. Overall, these findings highlight that life skills can be learned in a range of contexts, reinforce the importance of a PYD climate for the promotion of life skills in sport, and suggest that implicit processes play a critical role in the development of life skills.