Towards an Understanding of Young Athletes’ Perceptions of Competence, Confidence, Connection, and Character
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The 5Cs (competence, confidence, connection, character and caring/compassion) have been proposed as important constructs that describe the presence of positive youth development (PYD; Lerner et al., 2005). While the 5Cs are intuitively appealing, a recent study failed to provide support for the framework of the 5Cs within a sample of youth sport participants (Jones, Dunn, Holt, Sullivan, & Bloom, in press). Rather than abandoning the framework of the Cs in the youth sport setting, this finding highlights the importance of developing a sport-specific framework. In applying the 5Cs to sport, Côté, Bruner, Erickson, Strachan, and Fraser-Thomas (2010) found that competence, confidence, and connection were well represented in the sport literature, but that caring/compassion were embedded within the character literature. As a result, they collapsed the 5Cs into a 4Cs framework, which has been used in the current study. The purpose of the current study was to garner an understanding of what each of the 4Cs mean to a group of youth sport participants in the sport context. To this end, 10 single-sex focus groups were conducted with 49 youth sport participants (24 boys, 25 girls), 9 to 13 years old (M=10.8 years). The participants were involved in a variety of sports, with soccer, hockey, baseball/softball, and lacrosse being the most common. Data analyses revealed the types of information that participants use to form their perceptions of the 4Cs, along with the sources from which this information is obtained. Participants indicated that they used information from coaches, parents, peers, self-perceptions, and the sport context in creating their understanding of the 4Cs. Participants referred to obtaining information from peers regarding all 4Cs. Conversely, coaches were referenced regarding competence, confidence, and connection, but not character. Parents were not referenced by the participants in their understanding of connection or character in the sport setting. Notable findings also include the strong emphasis participants placed on their level of effort in determining their competence and confidence. Overall, results highlight the importance of providing young athletes opportunities to experience success and interact with peers in a fun and inclusive sport environment.