Sport Specialization Status and Athlete Burnout , Engagement , and Motivation

ECU Author/Contributor (non-ECU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
William H Johnson (Creator)
East Carolina University (ECU )
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Abstract: Early sport specialization , in which athletes compete in one sport nearly year round at a young age , is common in today's athletic culture. Several national sport organizations advise against early specialization due to its potentially increasing the risk of burnout and maladaptive motivation outcomes (Côte et al. , 2009; CSFL , 2016; NASPE , 2010). However , the few empirical studies that have examined the association of specialization with burnout , engagement , or motivation have found mixed results (Gould et al. , 1996; Russell & Symonds , 2015; Strachan et al. , 2009). This might be in part due to researchers not differentiating between early and late specialization. Theoretically , early specialization creates greater risk of maladaptive outcomes compared to late specialization based on the Developmental Model of Sport Participation (Cote & Vierimaa , 2014). Purpose: This study examined if differences existed between early , late and non-specializers on burnout , engagement , and motivation. Methods: Two samples of athletes participated in this study. The first sample was comprised of 276 female club soccer players with an average age of 14.94 (SD = 1.39). There were 112 early , 22 late , and 113 non-specializers. The second sample consisted of 106 wrestlers and swimmers (70 male and 36 female) with an average age of 15.67 (1.38) years. Of the sample , 30 were early , 25 were late , and 51 were non-specializers. Athletes completed a sport-specific demographic survey that included questions assessing their sport involvement and specialization status. In addition , athletes completed the Athlete Burnout Questionnaire (Raedeke & Smith , 2001) , the Athlete Engagement Questionnaire (Lonsdale et al. , 2007b) , and the Behavioral Regulation in Sport Questionnaire (Lonsdale , et al. , 2008). A series of one-way ANOVAs were used to examine differences between early (i.e. , 13 or younger) , late , and non-specializers on burnout , engagement , and motivation. Cohen's d was used to measure effect size. Results: For the soccer athletes , ANOVAs found no significant differences between specialization groups and burnout (p < .05). For the engagement subscales , the three groups did not differ on any subscale other than vigor (p = .04) with early specializers having higher scores (M = 4.56 , SD = .52) than late specializers (M = 4.36 , SD = .66). No differences existed between specialization groups on self-determined motivation. They did , however , differ on non self-determined motivation with non-specializers reporting significantly higher introjected (Cohen d = .37) and external regulation (Cohen d = .42) than early specializers. For the second sample , ANOVA results revealed no significant differences between specialization groups on burnout , engagement , or motivation subscales at p < .05 with effect sizes all small in magnitude. Conclusions: In contrast to position statements advising against specialization , findings from the current study do not support hat early specialization is associated with increased risk of burnout , lower engagement , and maladaptive motivation. However , it is important to recognize that the current samples were young in age and the impact of specialization may not occur later in athletes' sport careers. In addition , athletes experiencing maladaptive outcomes may have discontinued sport and thus not have been sampled. Finally , rather than being seasonal athletes , the non-specializers were equally involved in the amount of time they devoted to their primary sport as the early specializers which may have impacted results.

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Language: English
Date: 2017
Sport Specialization, Engagement

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