The Changing Landscape of Youth Sports: An Exploration of Youth Athlete's Perceptions and Experiences of Club Sport
Youth club sport has become a dominant part of society and the forefront of many childhoods. Youth sport participation holds various physical, psychological, and social benefits for children but as this industry continues to expand, when poorly managed, sport participation can become detrimental (Meân, 2013, p. 339). In this study the experiences and perceptions of female youth club volleyball players (ages 15-17) were explored through semi-structured interviews with a particular focus on key areas of concern identified in the research literature: early specialization, overuse injury, and burnout (Hedstrom & Gould, 2004, p. 4, 15-37). A thematic analysis was used to explore these a priori themes alongside emergent themes that were identified: early motivation and perception, current motivation and perception, pressure and athletic scholarships, perception of high school volleyball, and schedules. The positive perceptions arising from the themes were addressed as a foundation to improve on the negative perceptions. Recommendations to reduce the pressure and stress associated with winning are made, in addition to proposals regarding the schedule of club volleyball in an effort to provide athletes with adequate rest period in order to reduce risks of burnout and overuse injury.
Keywords: youth sport, specialization, overuse injury, burnout, club volleyball.