Sampling and athlete development in the youth sport context: A systematic review


Sport specialization has been linked to a variety of negative outcomes in young athletes including an increased risk of injury, burnout, and attrition. In an effort to combat these issues, researchers and health practitioners recommend young athletes avoid year-round, intensive participation in a single sport and instead sample a breadth of sport programs at varying intensities. Due to the recent spotlight that sampling has enjoyed in both the academic and public realm, the purpose of this review was to systematically investigate the youth literature and synthesize findings involving outcomes of interest in relation to sampling in sport—namely: improved sport performance, increased likelihood of sport participation, and enhanced personal development (the 3Ps; Côté et al., 2014). Six electronic databases were searched yielding 9,257 articles. Captured articles were read at the abstract level and retained for analysis if they described the impact of sampling on any of the 3Ps. In total, 42 articles met the inclusion criteria and were coded for outcomes of sampling. Findings indicated that youth sampling research has: (a) primarily used quantitative approaches, (b) almost exclusively implemented retrospective methodologies of inquiry, (c) predominantly included male participants, and (d) prioritized findings related to athlete performance, rather than sport participation and personal development. It is hoped that these findings might guide researchers interested in sampling to explore more diverse methodologies and to include underrepresented athlete populations in future studies. Exploring these avenues could prove important in painting a more complete picture of the contemporary young athlete experience.