The Benefits of Sampling Sports During Childhood
Macdonald, Dany J.
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Sampling may promote prolonged engagement in sport by limiting physical injuries (Fraser-Thomas et al., 2005). Overtraining injuries are a concern for young athletes who specialize in one sport and engage in high volumes of deliberate practice (Hollander, Meyers, & Leunes, 1995; Law, Côté, & Ericsson, 2007). For instance, young gymnasts who practice for over 16 hours a week have been shown to have higher incidences of back injuries (Goldstein, Berger, Windier, & Jackson, 1991). A sampling approach in child-controlled play (e.g. deliberate play) rather than highly adult-controlled practice (e.g. deliberate practice) has been proposed as a strategy to limit overuse and other sport-related injuries (Micheli, Glassman, & Klein, 2000). In summary, sampling may protect against sport attrition by limiting sport related injuries and allowing children to have early experiences in sport that are enjoyable. Psychosocial Benefits of Sampling Only a small percentage of children who participate in school sports ever become elite athletes. Therefore, the psychosocial outcomes of sport participation are particularly important to consider. Recent studies with youth between the ages of 11 to 17 have found that those who are involved in a variety of extracurricular activities (e.g. sports, volunteer, arts) score more favourably on outcome measures such as Grade Point Average (GPA; Fredricks & Eccles, 2006a) and positive peer relationships (Fredricks & Eccles, 2006b) than youth who participate in fewer activities. These patterns are thought to exist due to each extracurricular activity bringing its own distinct pattern of socialization experiences that reinforce certain behaviours and/or teach various skills (Fredricks & Eccles, 2006b; Rose-Krasnor, Bussen, Willoughby, & Chambers, 2006). This contention is corroborated by studies of children and youths' experiences in extracurricular activities indicating that youth have unique experiences in each activity that contribute to their development (Hansen, Larson, & Dworkin, 2003; Larson, Hansen, & Moneta, 2006). This has led Wilkes and Côté (2007) to propose that children who sample different activities (through their own choice or by virtue of parental direction), have a greater chance of developing the following five developmental outcomes compared to children who specialize in one activity: 1) life skills, 2) prosocial behaviour, 3) healthy identity, 4) diverse peer groups and 5) social capital.