Do participant reporting practices in youth sport research adequately represent variability in sport contexts?


A significant portion of research-oriented toward exploring the developmental benefits attained through sport has been informed by social-ecological approaches (e.g., Holt, 2017). Accordingly, athlete development researchers must consider the structure of the activities, interactions with social agents, and appropriateness of the settings—not only as descriptive features but as aspects that influence youth outcomes (e.g., Côté et al., 2015). Considering that athlete development does not occur in a vacuum and that a range of contextual factors must be considered, this study sought to (1) demonstrate the contextual variability of "youth sport" within a mid-sized Canadian city and (2) explore participant reporting practices within a subset of journals within sport psychology. Phase 1 involved a sport scan to identify youth sport opportunities within the city and surrounding area. During Phase 2, researchers systematically reviewed articles involving youth athletes (aged 6-18) published within four peer-reviewed journals between 2000 and 2017. Phase 1 demonstrated that sport opportunities varied greatly pertaining to sport type, gender, level of competition, cost, and time commitments. The review of reporting practices in Phase 2 highlighted a tendency to list basic demographic information like gender, age, and sample size, while using vague terms to denote context (e.g., competitive level) instead of the actual elements of sport contexts (e.g., number of hours, sport tenure, ethnicity, cost). Accordingly, researchers might consider more specifically describing the contexts that they are studying, while also speaking to the role that those contexts have pertaining to athlete experiences (e.g., other sport or extracurricular involvement).

Acknowledgments: This research was partially funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Canada Graduate Scholarship for Master's Students.