Health, Well-Being And The ‘Logic’ Of Elite Youth Sports Work

Authored by: Chris Platts , Andy Smith

Routledge Handbook of Youth Sport

Print publication date:  January  2016
Online publication date:  January  2016

Print ISBN: 9780415840033
eBook ISBN: 9780203795002
Adobe ISBN: 9781134469932


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Writing over two decades ago, Donnelly (1993) drew attention to some of the central problems that he associated with the involvement of young people in elite or high performance sport settings. Based on findings from a sample of forty-five recently retired Canadian high performance sport athletes, he identified not only the positive experiences of elite sport recalled by athletes, but also many more negative experiences, among which the following were regarded as being of central importance: relationship difficulties with family, friends and coaches; educational problems; physical and psychological problems; dietary and body image problems; the use of performance enhancing drugs; internal politics of sports teams and organizations; and retirement (Donnelly, 1993). Many of these problems, Donnelly added, were experienced when athletes were young and were likely to be exacerbated by the earlier and more intensive involvement of children and young people in elite sport settings which he observed at the time. In particular, he noted that:

As children encounter opportunities for increasingly lucrative careers as professional athletes, parents are tempted to encourage their children to become heavily involved in professional sports at early ages. As evidenced by increasing demands for international success in sport as a justification for government and corporate spending on elite participation, and by a variety of attempts to establish schemes for the early identification athletic talent, there is an obvious trend toward earlier and more intensive athletic involvement for younger and younger children.

(Donnelly, 1993: 96)

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