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date: 19 April 2018

Psychological Considerations of Adolescents in Sport and Performance

Summary and Keywords

Adolescent athletes face increasing opportunities for competition at higher levels, as well as increasing demands on their time, pressure from parents and coaches, and conflicts with teammates and opponents, all during a time when adolescents are exploring different aspects of their identity and sense of self. Sport is a context for adolescent development, and despite the wide array of positive benefits that have been associated with sport participation during adolescence and into adulthood, it is also acknowledged that sport participation does not automatically confer benefits to adolescent athletes, and it may lead to potentially negative experiences and poor psychosocial outcomes.

Key concerns for researchers and practitioners working with adolescent athletes include managing various stressors and the development of adaptive coping strategies, the risk of experiencing sport burnout, bullying, and the potential for withdrawing or dropping out of sport. Despite these concerns, a large body of research among adolescent athletes provides evidence that athletes’ performance and positive psychosocial development may be enhanced among adolescent athletes by intentionally structuring the sport environment to promote positive outcomes; in particular, coaches, parents, and peers play an important role in shaping the sport experiences of adolescent athletes. Furthermore, the psychosocial characteristics and competencies associated with sport participation may not automatically transfer to other areas of adolescents’ lives unless they are intentionally and systematically structured to do so. It is important for coaches, parents, and sport administrators who are involved in developing and delivering programs for adolescent athletes to be aware of some of the psychosocial concerns that are relevant for this population, and to consider intentionally structuring sport programs to promote high levels of achievement as well as healthy psychological and social development among young athletes.

Keywords: youth sport, parent, burnout, perfectionism, stress and coping

Introduction

Youth sport is a context for children and adolescents to have fun, learn physical skills and gain competence in sport, and develop social relationships with peers and adults. Overall, sport participation during adolescence is associated with a range of positive outcomes, including increased fitness and activity levels, decreased body fat (Telford, Telford, Olive, Cochrane, & Davey, 2016), enhanced self-esteem and body image, self-efficacy, leadership skills, improved social relationships, improved academic adjustment, and educational attainment (Cohen, Taylor, Zonta, Vestal, & Schuster, 2007; Melendez, 2007; Pate, Trost, Levin, & Dowda, 2000; Troutman & Dufur, 2007). Sport participation is also associated with benefits extending across the life span, including higher physical activity (Bélanger, Gray-Donald, O’Loughlin, Paradis, & Hanley, 2009) and better mental health in adulthood (Jewett et al., 2014). Yet during adolescence athletes are faced with increasing demands on their time, more frequent competition and practice schedules, longer travel distances to compete, changes in teams and coaching staff, as well as more opportunities to compete and train at higher levels. These situations present the possibility for increased pressure, stress, and potentially negative psychosocial outcomes among adolescent athletes. The focus of this article is to examine some key psychosocial concerns among adolescent athletes pertaining to stress and coping, burnout, dropout, and also some positive outcomes associated with sport participation. The final section reviews research that highlights the importance of parents, coaches, and peers in youth sport.

Stress and Coping

Competitive sport may present athletes with challenges associated with pressure from parents and coaches, an overemphasis on winning, concerns about injuries, and conflicts with teammates and opponents (Butcher, Lindner, & Johns, 2002; Siesmaa, Blitvich, & Finch, 2011). Within sport, researchers frequently draw on Lazarus’s (1999) and Lazarus and Folkman’s (1984) cognitive-motivational-relational theory (CMRT) of emotion and define stressors as events or situations that are appraised as taxing or exceeding the resources of the person. Thus, stressors are subjective appraisals of situations that are evaluated in terms of their relevance to one’s goals, values, or beliefs, and in terms of the coping options the person has to deal with the situation (Lazarus, 1999). In the unpredictable and dynamic context of sport, researchers have investigated the vast array of potential stressors that athletes may face. These stressors have been classified as: (1) chronic versus acute stressors; (2) expected versus unexpected stressors; and (3) competitive versus organizational stressors. Chronic stressors typically develop gradually and are longer lasting, whereas acute stressors have a more sudden onset and are short lasting. For example, an overuse injury in sport may be seen as a chronic stressor, whereas dealing with a bad call from a referee would be considered acute (Anshel & Wells, 2000). Unexpected stressors (i.e., stressful events or situations that are unanticipated) have been reported to be more threatening than expected stressors (Dugdale, Eklund, & Gordon, 2002). Lastly, competitive stressors concern demands that are directly related to competition (e.g., risk of injury, poor performance), whereas organizational stressors concern demands that are related to the organization or broader sport environment (e.g., lack of financial support; Hanton, Fletcher, & Coughlan, 2005). Researchers have found athletes recall a wide variety of organizational and competition stressors throughout their sporting careers in both training and competition (e.g., Mellalieu, Neil, Hanton, & Fletcher, 2009; Neil, Hanton, Mellalieu, & Fletcher, 2011).

Qualitative research among 29 elite adolescent athletes competing at the European Youth Olympics indicated that athletes who perceived unexpected and novel stressors associated with performing in a highly competitive situation reported heightened stress during the event (Kristiansen & Roberts, 2010). This supports previous research, which suggests that unexpected stressors are viewed as more threatening than expected stressors in sport (Dugdale et al., 2002). Stressors have also been found to fluctuate over the course of competitions, over brief competitive periods of a few weeks, and over the course of a season in response to fluctuating demands in the adolescent athlete’s environment (Gaudreau, Nicholls, & Levy, 2010; Nicholls, Holt, Polman, & James, 2005; Tamminen & Holt, 2010a). Thus, adolescent athletes are constantly engaging in a process of adapting and adjusting to potential stressors in their environment.

Coping is defined as the “cognitive and behavioral efforts to manage specific external or internal demands (and conflicts between them) that are appraised as taxing or exceeding the resources of the person” (Lazarus, 1991, p. 112). There are various ways of classifying coping strategies. One approach distinguishes coping strategies according to their purpose or function. Within Lazarus’s (1999) CMRT, problem-focused coping refers to attempts to change the person–environment relationship, and it includes strategies such as confronting the situation directly or finding a way to change the situation. Emotion-focused coping refers to attempts to change the way an individual interprets or appraises the situation in order to modify his or her emotional response to the situation (Lazarus, 1991). Finally, avoidance coping includes efforts to physically or mentally withdraw from a situation (Anshel & Wells, 2000). Another approach to classifying coping strategies in sport revolves around three higher-order dimensions: task-oriented coping (i.e., attempts to master components of the task), distraction-oriented coping (i.e., attempts to orient attention away from the task), and disengagement-oriented coping (i.e., attempts to withdraw from the task) (see Table 1; Gaudreau & Blondin, 2002, 2004; Gaudreau, El Ali, & Marivain, 2005).

Table 1. Coping Strategies from the Coping Inventory for Competitive Sport (Adapted from Gaudreau & Blondin, 2002; Gaudreau et al., 2005).

Coping Orientation

Subcategory

Example

Task-Oriented Coping

Thought Control

Replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts

Mental Imagery

Imagining a successful performance

Relaxation

Attempting to release muscle tension

Effort Expenditure

Putting in consistent effort

Logical Analysis

Analyzing strengths and using those for an advantage

Seeking Support

Talking to a trustworthy person

Distraction-Oriented Coping

Distancing

Retreating to a safe space

Mental Distraction

Thinking about a leisure activity rather than the stressor

Disengagement-Oriented Coping

Venting Unpleasant Emotions

Expressing discontent and frustration

Withdrawing/Quitting

Losing hope of achieving a goal

Over a decade ago, a review of literature on coping among youth athletes by Holt, Hoar, and Fraser (2005) indicated that coping strategy use appears to change across childhood and adolescence, and the authors proposed that coping responses of adolescents are associated with cognitive and social developmental changes during adolescence. In the years since, researchers have sought to extend the literature by examining how coping changes over the course of a competition (Nicholls, Holt, & Polman, 2005), over a competitive period of 28 or 31 days (Nicholls, 2007a; Nicholls, Holt, Polman, & James, 2005; Nicholls & Polman, 2007), and over a competitive season (Tamminen & Holt, 2010a). Collectively, this research highlights the fluctuations in athletes’ coping efforts in response to changes in stressors within the competitive environment, and that coping efforts are constrained by athletes’ situational/contextual circumstances and by developmental differences between athletes (Tamminen & Holt, 2010b). Furthermore, findings from qualitative research emphasize the importance of athletes’ social networks for coping with stressors in sport; for example, athletes may cope with stressors by seeking social support, and they may learn about coping through modeling and observation of others. Conversely, interactions with teammates, coaches, and parents may contribute to greater perceived pressure, thereby exacerbating athletes’ stressor appraisals. Thus, social networks may be both an asset and a liability for athletes’ stressor appraisals and coping (Tamminen & Holt, 2010b).

Additionally, researchers have investigated developmental differences in coping among adolescent athletes. A series of studies by Nicholls and colleagues has provided some evidence that coping among adolescent athletes is associated with pubertal status and chronological age (Nicholls, Polman, Morley, & Taylor, 2009), cognitive social maturity (Nicholls, Perry, Jones, Morley, & Carson, 2013), and emotional maturity (Nicholls, Levy, & Perry, 2015). Adolescent athletes with greater emotional maturity who are more outcome oriented and have a strong desire to achieve their goals, and who tend to view setbacks as controllable and manageable, seem to be more likely to report using task-oriented coping to deal with stressors in competition (Nicholls et al., 2015). Similarly, athletes who are more conscientious also report greater use of task-oriented coping and less disengagement-oriented coping (Nicholls et al., 2013).

In recent years, researchers have sought to explore the development of coping among adolescent athletes and the roles that parents and coaches play as athletes learn to cope with stressors in sport (Tamminen & Holt, 2012; Tamminen, McEwen, & Crocker, 2016). Findings from qualitative research with adolescent athletes, parents, and coaches suggests that learning about coping is a process that unfolds over time, is supported by athletes’ reflection on their coping efforts, and is facilitated by parent and coach support to help athletes learn to cope with stressors in sport. Parent and coach strategies included questioning and reminding athletes about previous coping attempts, sharing experience and providing perspective, initiating conversations about coping, and scaffolding structured opportunities for athletes to practice coping with sport stressors. Subsequent research examining the socialization of coping among adolescent athletes provides further support for the role of parents in influencing the coping strategies used by young athletes (Tamminen, McEwen, & Crocker, 2016). Adolescent athletes’ task-oriented coping was positively correlated with perceptions of parental support, while disengagement-oriented coping was positively correlated with parental pressure. Regression analyses indicated that parents’ socialization of task-oriented coping (e.g., making explicit suggestions to athletes about using task-oriented coping) was a significant predictor of athletes’ use of task-oriented coping when controlling for parental pressure and support. Furthermore, disengagement coping was predicted by greater parental pressure and lower parental support, and athletes who reported the highest disengagement coping also reported low parental support and had parents who reported low socialization of disengagement coping. This research builds on previous work by Lafferty and Dorrell (2006) that indicated greater parental support was associated with greater use of active coping among adolescent swimmers. Conversely, athletes who reported low parental support used less active coping and more self-blame and venting of emotions to deal with stressors in sport. Collectively, this research highlights the importance of parents in the development and use of coping strategies among adolescent athletes.

Coping interventions would be valuable for improving the coping skills of adolescent athletes. However, there are several key areas which require further investigation. First, there is a need to evaluate coping interventions to determine the best approaches to teaching adolescent athletes how to cope with stressors in sport. Initial research efforts have provided evidence that structured coping programs can help to improve coping among adolescent athletes (e.g., Brown, Malouff, & Schutte, 2005; Nicholls, 2007b; Reeves, Nicholls, & McKenna, 2011), but there is a need to systematically evaluate the use and effectiveness of coping interventions for adolescent athletes. These efforts should also include consideration of developmental differences in athletes’ coping, and it may also be necessary to consider the inclusion of parents and coaches in interventions, especially considering that parent or coach effectiveness training is associated with reductions in athletes’ anxiety (Smoll, Smith, & Cumming, 2007). Finally, further research is needed to examine the cross-domain transfer of coping skills and whether coping skills taught in sport can be applied or transferred to other domains, and whether these efforts may lead to positive outcomes for individuals in settings outside of sport. Research by Gaudreau, Gunnell, Hoar, Thompson, and Lelièvre (2015) demonstrated that student–athletes’ efforts to cope with stressors in sport were not associated with satisfaction in school, and that coping efforts to deal with school stressors were not associated with sport satisfaction. These findings suggest that interventions to improve coping with sport stressors may help to improve athletes’ experiences in sport; however, these benefits may not automatically transfer to improvements in other life domains. The transfer of life skills is not automatic or guaranteed from sport contexts to other domains (e.g., Pierce, Gould, & Camiré, 2017), and thus coping interventions delivered in a sport context may not automatically transfer to other areas of adolescents’ lives unless they are intentionally and systematically structured to do so.

Burnout

In situations where adolescent athletes face chronic stressors in their sport, athletes may be at risk of overtraining and experiencing symptoms of burnout. While burnout has been a topic of research interest since the 1980s within the workplace and sport (Goodger, Gorely, Lavallee, & Harwood, 2007; Gustafsson, Kenttä, & Hassmén, 2011), current understandings and frameworks developed for sport have been a recent development. Burnout in sport has been defined as a “syndrome of physical/emotional exhaustion, sport devaluation, and reduced athletic accomplishment” (Raedeke, 1997, p. 398). This definition is meant to emphasize the fatigue associated with burnout to distinguish the construct from dropout, as dropout can refer to many reasons unrelated to stress and exhaustion (Gustafsson, Hassmén, Kenttä, & Johansson, 2008).

Burnout is an important concern among adolescent athletes, particularly among athletes who may be involved in high volumes of training and competition. It is difficult to establish the prevalence of burnout among adolescent athletes, as many athletes are thought to underreport symptoms of burnout. Some researchers have found that 1–9% of adolescent athletes experience burnout in sport (Gustafsson, Kenttä, Hassmén, & Lundqvist, 2007), although recent research among 391 adolescent student–athletes suggested that while the majority (60%) of athletes in the study were classified as well functioning, 28% of the athletes demonstrated mild sport burnout (e.g., athletes reported burnout scores above the sample mean), while 2.7% of athletes demonstrated severe sport burnout (e.g., burnout scores were two standard deviations above the sample mean) (Sorkkila, Aunola, & Ryba, 2017).

Gustafsson and colleagues (2011) developed an explanatory model of sport burnout, which integrates early research findings into a comprehensive model that describes the major antecedents and early signs of burnout; the individual, environmental, and entrapment factors that increase the risk of burning out; and the maladaptive consequences that result from burnout (see Figure 1). This model incorporates Smith’s (1986) cognitive-affective stress model (i.e., burnout is the result of chronic psychological stress), Silva’s (1990) training stress syndrome (i.e., burnout results when training demands are excessive), and Schmidt and Stein’s (1991) and Raedeke’s (1997) commitment model (i.e., burnout occurs when athletes feel “entrapped” in the sport rather than wanting to participate).

Psychological Considerations of Adolescents in Sport and PerformanceClick to view larger

Figure 1. Integrated model of athlete burnout (from Gustafsson, Kenttä, & Hassmén, 2011). Reprinted with permission by Taylor & Francis, http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rirs20/current.

One important factor that has been associated with burnout among adolescent athletes is perfectionism, which is defined as a multidimensional trait or disposition consisting of a combination of exceedingly high standards and a preoccupation with extreme self-critical evaluation (Frost, Marten, Lahart, & Rosenblate, 1990). If adolescent athletes hold exceedingly high standards for themselves and maintain extremely high levels of concern or worry about making mistakes in their sport, they may experience problems with their sport performance, decreases in motivation, and burnout. Perfectionism is reflected by perfectionistic strivings, which are associated with “self-oriented striving for perfection and the setting of very high personal performance standards” (Gotwals, Stoeber, Dunn, & Stoll, 2012, p. 264), as well as by perfectionistic concerns, which reflect “concerns over making mistakes, fear of negative social evaluation, feelings of discrepancy between one’s expectations and performance, and negative reactions to imperfection” (Gotwals et al., 2012, p. 264). Among adolescent athlete samples, perfectionistic concerns have been associated with increases in burnout over a period of 3 months, while perfectionistic strivings predicted decreases in burnout among athletes (Madigan, Stoeber, & Passfield, 2015). Furthermore, the relationship between perfectionistic concerns and increased burnout was mediated by athletes’ perceptions of controlled motivation (e.g., ego-involvement, wanting to perform better in comparison to others, being motivated by rewards and punishments), whereas the negative association between perfectionistic strivings and burnout was mediated by increases in autonomous motivation (e.g., intrinsic motivation, inherent interest and enjoyment in sport; Madigan, Stoeber, & Passfield, 2016).

Researchers have also recently investigated the role of passion and different forms of motivation with respect to burnout among adolescent athletes. Passion is considered to have dual aspects, namely harmonious passion and obsessive passion (Vallerand & Miquelon, 2007). Harmonious passion refers to engagement in an activity that is personally endorsed and valued, whereby individuals participate freely in an activity without any sense of obligation. On the other hand, obsessive passion refers to a person feeling compelled or motivated to participate in an activity because they may feel pressured to do so, or they may feel guilt for not engaging in the activity (Vallerand et al., 2008). Both harmonious and obsessive passion are associated with increased deliberate practice in sport among adolescent athletes, which is associated with improved performance (Vallerand et al., 2008). However, harmonious passion is also associated with athletes’ subjective well-being, whereas obsessive passion is not (Vallerand et al., 2008). Additional research has produced equivocal results: some researchers have indicated that athletes who reported greater obsessive passion for their sport participation also reported greater burnout compared to athletes who displayed more harmonious passion for their sport participation (Gustafsson et al., 2011), whereas others have reported no association between obsessive passion and burnout among a sample of elite junior soccer players (Curran, Appleton, Hill, & Hall, 2011, 2013). While there is still work to be done in understanding the role of passion in the development of burnout, researchers propose that harmonious passion may pose some protection against athletes developing burnout in sport, as athletes with higher harmonious passion appear to have higher psychological need satisfaction and greater intrinsic motivation for their sport engagement (Curran et al., 2011, 2013).

In addition to identifying specific antecedents and personality factors that are associated with burnout, Gustafsson et al.’s (2011) integrated model of burnout emphasizes the interaction of individual and social or environmental factors that may contribute to the development of burnout among athletes. Thus, researchers have examined the role of the social environment and the influence of teammates and coaches in predicting burnout among adolescent athletes. For example, Smith, Gustafsson, and Hassmén (2010) reported that within a sample of 206 adolescent athletes in Swedish sport schools, higher burnout was associated with lower weekly training hours, higher perceived stress, and higher intrateam conflict as well as lower perceptions of improvement, relatedness, and effort within the peer climate.

One theoretical perspective that has been used to study associations between the social environment and burnout in sport is achievement goal theory (AGT; Nicholls, 1984), which postulates that individuals set goals that they believe will provide the greatest sense of personal achievement in particular contexts. Researchers (Duda & Nicholls, 1992; Nicholls, 1984) have described two goal orientations within AGT: (1) task orientation, where one evaluates the achievement of a goal based on personal effort, progress, and mastery; and (2) ego orientation, where one evaluates the achievement of a goal based on comparison, superiority, and outperforming others. Whether an individual adopts a task or ego orientation depends on their personal disposition toward creating certain goals and the motivational climate (i.e., the perception of the goal perspective within a given environment; Duda & Nicholls, 1992; Harwood, Keegan, Smith, & Raine, 2015). The motivational climate is further broken down into a mastery or task-involving climate, which promotes the development of more task-oriented goals, or a performance or ego-involving climate, emphasizing social comparisons and achievement as a basis for evaluating competence (Ames, 1992; Harwood, Keegan, et al., 2015).

With regard to burnout, research findings suggest that aspects of a task-involving peer motivational climate are associated with decreased burnout, while features of an ego-involving peer motivational climate are associated with higher burnout among adolescent athletes (Lemyre, Hall, & Roberts, 2008; Smith et al., 2010). Additionally, coaches may be important in the development of burnout among adolescent athletes, as they play a large role in athletes’ sport experiences and often determine the training volumes and competition schedules of athletes. Isoard-Gautheur, Guillet-Descas, and Duda (2013) found that athletes identified as having high sport devaluation and reduced accomplishment in sport had significantly higher perceptions of an ego-involving coach motivational climate, perceived lower competence, and placed less importance on setting mastery approach goals and performance approach goals in sport. The authors emphasized that coaches play a key role in either promoting or attenuating the development of burnout in highly competitive athletes (Isoard-Gautheur et al., 2013). Among adult athletes, validation-seeking has been identified as an important factor for the development of burnout (Hill, Hall, Appleton, & Murray, 2010), and considering that coaches have a large influence on the motivational patterns of adolescent athletes (Chan, Lonsdale, & Fung, 2012), coaches should be aware of the possibility that they may contribute to improving or worsening the development of burnout among their athletes.

In summary, adolescent athletes face a number of stressors associated with their participation in sport, and in some cases athletes may be at risk of experiencing burnout, which could eventually lead to athletes dropping out of sport altogether. The following section reviews relevant literature on youth sport dropout during adolescence.

Youth Sport Dropout

Participation in organized sports tends to peak in middle childhood and decline during adolescence (Findlay, Garner, & Kohen, 2009), and sport participation rates are declining: national survey data from Canada demonstrate that in 2005, 59% of adolescents reported participating in organized sport, down from 77% in 1992 (Ifedi, 2008). More recent data suggest further declines in 2010, with 54% of adolescents participating in sport (Statistics Canada, 2013). These numbers are more pronounced for adolescent female sport participants: the rate of sport participation among Canadian males aged 15–19 was 68.7% in 2010, compared to 38.5% among female adolescents (Statistics Canada, 2013). Data from the United States show a similar pattern: while approximately 45 million children and adolescent youth participate in organized sport, there is a 70–80% attrition rate by the age of 15 (Merkel, 2013), and sport participation is higher among boys than girls (Pate et al., 2000). These findings are also supported by longitudinal studies of sport and physical activity participation among adolescents, which indicate that the prevalence of participation in sports and physical activities declined among adolescents across a 5-year period (Bélanger, Gray-Donald, O’Loughlin, Paradis, & Hanley, 2009). Although participation in team activities was highest in early adolescence, boys and girls discontinued participating in team sports over the 5-year period—of those participating in team activities at the beginning of the study (at ages 12 and 13), only 41% of girls and 69% of boys continued to participate in these activities after 5 years (Bélanger et al., 2009).

Recently, researchers have provided further evidence for the benefits of sustained sport participation and the negative outcomes associated with sport dropout. For example, results from a 2-year study of Australian children between 8 and 10 years of age indicated that children who dropped out of sport had greater psychological difficulties (e.g., peer relationship problems, hyperactivity and attention problems, emotional problems, conduct problems) compared to children who maintained their participation in sport (Vella, Cliff, Magee, & Okely, 2015). Children who participated in organized sports were happier and had better peer relationships compared to children who had discontinued sport participation and those who did not participate in sport.

The reasons that youth report for dropping out of sports are varied and can include losing interest, lack of competence, insufficient time (Slater & Tiggemann, 2010), conflicting activities, competing interests, not having fun in sport (Siesmaa, Blitvich, & Finch, 2011), pressure from parents, unsupportive coaches, negative peer interactions (Fraser-Thomas, Côté, & Deakin, 2008), physical complaints and injuries, lack of motivation, and a lack of coping strategies to deal with problems in sport (Baron-Thiene & Alfermann, 2015). In a recent review of 23 studies examining youth sport attrition, researchers identified that psychosocial correlates of youth sport dropout included lack of motivation, low perceived competence, low perceived relatedness with others, having few close friends in sport, having a poor relationship with coaches, and having low perceptions of a task motivational climate (Balish, McLaren, Rainham, & Blanchard, 2014). The authors noted that many of the reasons associated with youth sport dropout concern interpersonal relationships and social-psychological factors. In a study exploring social relationships and youth sport dropout, Ullrich-French and Smith (2009) reported that adolescent athletes who reported greater perceived competence and more positive friendships in sport were more likely to continue participating on the same team the following year. Additionally, athletes who reported a combination of peer relationships and positive mother relationships were more likely to participate on the same team the following year. Importantly, social relationships predicted athletes’ continuation in soccer above and beyond perceived competence, lending support to the need to promote positive relationships with others in order to support athletes’ continued sport participation.

It is also important to acknowledge the potential impact of increased training load and competing at higher levels as factors in young athletes’ decisions to withdraw from sport. In particular, specializing in fewer sports at an early age has been raised as a concern for young athletes (Fraser-Thomas et al., 2008; Wall & Côté, 2007). The trend toward increasing sport specialization at an early age has resulted in concerns related to the physical and psychological health and well-being among adolescent athletes (Bergeron et al., 2015). Thus, considering the declining rates of sport participation and decreasing physical activity levels among youth, it is important to address some of the factors that may contribute to youth sport dropout and negative experiences in sport, and to promote positive sport experiences and outcomes for adolescent athletes. The following section reviews literature regarding positive youth development approaches among adolescent athletes and the importance of coaches, parents, and peers for young athletes’ sport experiences.

Enhancing Adolescent Athletes’ Psychosocial Development and Performance

Despite some of the challenges that athletes report in their sport participation, there are also a number of positive developmental outcomes associated with sport engagement among adolescent athletes, including improved psychological adjustment, civic engagement, and education status (Fredricks & Eccles, 2004), improved psychological and social health (Eime, Young, Harvey, Charity, & Payne, 2013), and the development of social identity and a number of personal skills (e.g., goal setting, initiative; Bruner et al., 2017). The development of positive psychosocial outcomes in sport has been investigated using a range of perspectives that have variously focused on the development of positive psychological characteristics, competencies, life skills, and behaviors among youth (Weiss, Kipp, & Bolter, 2012). Broadly, these approaches fall under the area of positive youth development (PYD), which is an umbrella term that encompasses multiple strength-based approaches to promoting positive outcomes among youth, and which views youth as resources to be developed rather than as problems to be managed (Holt, 2016; Lerner, Brown, & Kier, 2005; Weiss et al., 2012). While it is outside of the scope of this article to review the expansive body of research examining PYD in sport, it is important to acknowledge this field of research and its emphasis on the promotion of positive outcomes among adolescent athletes participating in sport (for more in-depth reviews of current research and theory on PYD in sport, see Fraser-Thomas, Côté, & Deakin, 2005; Holt, 2016; Holt & Neely, 2011; Weiss et al., 2012).

Although many adolescents will derive benefits from their involvement in sport, youth sport participation is no longer viewed as a universally positive experience that will guarantee positive developmental outcomes for athletes (Coakley, 2016). Rather, it is acknowledged that the activities, interactions, and underlying values within youth sport are key factors that shape the extent to which youth athletes may derive positive outcomes from their sport participation (Côté, Turnnidge, & Evans, 2015; Holt et al., 2016). In particular, researchers have recognized the important role of adults (i.e., coaches, parents, referees, sport administrators) in providing the appropriate structure and organization in order to promote positive athlete development (Holt et al., 2016). Due to the regular, day-to-day interactions that coaches have with athletes, researchers have noted that coaches play a major role in athletes’ psychosocial development (Vella, Oades, & Crowe, 2011) and have reported associations between coach education and athlete developmental outcomes (e.g., Camiré, Trudel, & Forneris, 2014). For example, MacDonald, Côté, and Deakin (2010) found that sport organizations that educated their coaches on the development of life skills with athletes had athletes report increased personal and social skills in comparison to athletes belonging to organizations who did not offer this coach education. In addition, there are a number of coaching programs and interventions that have been shown to contribute to athletes’ positive psychosocial development in sport. For example, Harwood (2008) and Harwood and colleagues (Harwood, Keegan, Smith, & Raine, 2015) described the implementation of educational coaching programs that were found to contribute to coaches’ increased use of behaviors taught in coaching sessions, and athletes showed improvements in their commitment, communication, concentration, control, and confidence in sport. These studies illustrate the implementation of various programs and approaches that are likely to promote positive outcomes among athletes, and they highlight the application of some of the key elements of PYD programs in sport: building strong relationships between youth and their peers as well as with adults, promoting supportive parental involvement, explicitly focusing activities on building life skills, and providing youth with activities that emphasize the transfer of life skills to other domains (e.g., learning how to apply skills learned in sport to school, family, etc.; Holt et al., 2016).

In addition to research examining the development of positive life skills and psychosocial outcomes among young athletes, researchers have also examined the impact of interventions and training programs to improve mental skills and sport performance among adolescent athletes. For example, Fournier and colleagues (Fournier, Calmels, Durand-Bush, & Salmela, 2005) implemented a 25-week psychological skills training program with adolescent female gymnasts and found that the athletes showed improvements in their use of psychological skills (e.g., relaxation, imagery) and in their sport performance. Similar performance and psychological skill enhancement has been observed with the implementation of a mental training program for improving tennis players’ anxiety, confidence, and performance (Mamassis & Doganis, 2004), a 7-week psychological skills training program that was shown to improve swimmers’ performance and psychological development (Sheard & Golby, 2006), and a 3-day psychological skills training intervention designed to improve soccer players’ technical performance (Thelwell, Weston, & Greenlees, 2006). The research in this area has shown promising results in demonstrating that educating athletes on the use of mental skills may help with performance in addition to developing mental skills. However, there is limited research examining the long-term effects of such programs among adolescent athletes. Moving forward, researchers could examine whether the early implementation of mental skills training programs during adolescence may confer protective benefits against some of the negative experiences associated with participating and competing at higher levels of sport, and whether such programs promote higher sport achievement among adolescent athletes.

Social Influences on the Experiences of Adolescent Athletes

The sport experiences of adolescent athletes are undeniably shaped by their interactions with others in the course of their sport participation. The following section reviews some research findings regarding the influence of coaches, parents, and peers on the sport experiences of adolescent athletes.

Coaches

Researchers have focused on coaching in youth sport for decades (e.g., Smith, Smoll, & Curtis, 1978), and there is a large body of research emphasizing the importance of quality coaching in promoting positive youth sport experiences among adolescent athletes, as coaches are often viewed by their athletes as teachers, mentors, friends, and parent figures (Becker, 2009; Côté & Gilbert, 2009). The various roles of the coach as perceived by athletes suggest that the coach has a large influence on an athlete’s sport experience, and coaches have also been shown to affect athletes’ overall well-being and success (Becker, 2009; Stewart & Owens, 2011). While coaches generally report that they perceive themselves as being responsible for facilitating life skills outside of athletic performance (Vella, Oades, & Crowe, 2011), the transfer of life skills to other domains is not automatic (Pierce et al., 2017), and coaches are not always effective at fostering positive experiences among athletes (e.g., Cremona, 2010; Fraser-Thomas et al., 2005). Considering that athletes’ sport performance and positive development depends to a large degree on the role of the coach, the topic of coach behaviors and coaches’ influence represents a vast body of literature in the field of sport psychology.

As noted previously, researchers using AGT (Duda & Nicholls, 1992; Nicholls, 1984) to study coaches’ behaviors and influence among adolescent athletes have reported that an ego-involving coach motivational climate is associated with athlete burnout (Isoard-Gautheur et al., 2013). A systematic review of research on athletes’ perceptions of the motivational climate in sport (Harwood, Keegan, et al., 2015) also found that an ego-involving motivational climate was associated with several negative or maladaptive outcomes among athletes, including negative affect, negative thoughts and worries, antisocial moral functioning, and decreased feelings of relatedness within their teams. Conversely, athletes whose coaches foster task-involving or mastery motivational climates tend to report higher perceived competence in sport, greater confidence and self-esteem, positive affect, better moral functioning, and greater feelings of relatedness within their teams. Furthermore, a task-involving climate has been shown to have a small but positive association with performance, while there does not appear to be an association between an ego-involving motivational climate and performance. Researchers generally suggest that coaches should seek to foster task-involving motivational climates in order to promote adaptive outcomes among adolescent athletes; however, Harwood, Keegan, et al. (2015) cautioned that further research is required to clarify exactly how athlete perceptions of the motivational climate are influenced by coaches’ behaviors and approaches to communication.

Self-determination theory (SDT; Ryan and Deci, 2000) is another perspective that has gained considerable popularity for examining the behaviors and influence of coaches on athletes’ sport experiences. According to SDT, social environments or climates that are autonomy supportive encourage self-determined or intrinsic motivation (i.e., inclination toward an activity for enjoyment and satisfaction rather than external reasons) through the development of the basic psychological needs of competence, autonomy, and relatedness (Ryan & Deci, 2000). Coaches can create an autonomy-supportive motivational climate by acknowledging and empathizing with athletes’ feelings, providing athletes with opportunities for leadership and choice, providing positive and constructive feedback, and behaving in a caring and supportive manner (Conroy & Coatsworth, 2007; Gaudreau et al., 2016; Ryan & Deci, 2000). This is in contrast to a more controlling style of coaching where coaches pressure athletes, have critical and harsh evaluations, use social comparisons between athletes, and ensure that athletes think and behave according to the coach’s beliefs (Amorose & Anderson-Butcher, 2015; Ryan & Deci, 2000).

Researchers have found positive relationships between autonomy-supportive coaching and a number of athlete psychological outcomes. Autonomy-supportive coaching has been found to positively predict the satisfaction of the psychological needs of athletes (autonomy, competence, and relatedness; Amorose & Anderson-Butcher, 2015; Kipp & Weiss, 2013). This finding has been consistent across both male and female athletes (e.g., Adie, Duda, & Ntoumanis, 2012; Kipp & Weiss, 2013), between and across individual and team sport classifications (e.g., van de Pol, Kavussanu, & Kompier, 2015), across a wide age range (e.g., 10–18 years of age; Adie et al., 2012; Coatsworth & Conroy, 2009), and in various cultural contexts (e.g., Álvarez, Balaguer, Castillo, & Duda, 2009). The positive relationship between autonomy-supportive coaching and the satisfaction of athletes’ psychological needs has also been strengthened by evidence supporting the negative impact of controlling styles of coaching on the development of psychological needs (Adie et al., 2012).

Consistent with SDT, autonomy-supportive coaching has been found to positively predict athletes’ self-determined or intrinsic motivation (Ryan & Deci, 2000). When coaches employ coaching strategies to foster autonomy-supportive climates, adolescent athletes’ have reported more self-determined types of motivation (e.g., Reynolds & McDonough, 2015; Hodge & Lonsdale, 2011). Autonomy-supportive coaching has also been found to have a negative relationship with extrinsic motivation and burnout, whereas controlling coaches have been found to contribute to athletes’ amotivation and burnout; these findings suggest that autonomy-supportive leaders may have a protective effect against extrinsic types of motivation and burnout (e.g., Amorose & Anderson-Butcher, 2015; Balaguer et al., 2012). Some studies have reported that the satisfaction of psychological needs mediates the relationship between autonomy-supportive coaching and self-determined motivation (e.g., Álvarez et al., 2009); however, other researchers have found that coaches’ autonomy support directly improves the motivational climate and athletes’ intrinsic motivation (e.g., Gillet, Vallerand, & Rosnet, 2009; Jõesaar, Hein, & Hagger, 2011).

Coach autonomy support has also been found to contribute to athlete psychological well-being. Kipp and Weiss (2013) had female adolescent gymnasts report increased positive affect and decreased disordered eating when they perceived their coaches as autonomy supportive, with the satisfaction of the athletes’ psychological needs mediating this relationship. Coach autonomy support also appears to have a positive impact on athletes’ positive affect, self-esteem, and satisfaction with life (Cronin & Allen, 2015), and contributes to long-term athlete well-being (Adie et al., 2012). Cronin and Allen (2015) found that coaches’ autonomy support led to the development of athletes’ social and cognitive skills, goal setting, and initiative. Coatsworth and Conroy (2009) reported similar associations between coach autonomy support and athletes’ initiative, and coach autonomy support was positively related to athlete identity exploration and reflection. There is also evidence that athletes’ perceptions of supportive coaching behaviors are associated with athletes’ use of more task-oriented coping strategies during competitions, which were subsequently associated with athletes’ goal attainment (Nicolas, Gaudreau, & Franche, 2011). Lastly, Álvarez and colleagues (2009) found that athletes who perceived their coaches to display autonomy-supportive behaviors reported greater satisfaction of psychological needs and greater self-determined motivation, which in turn predicted greater enjoyment and less boredom in sport. While these findings suggest that autonomy-supportive coaching is an effective style of coaching, more research is needed to determine how it assists in the psychosocial development and sport success of adolescent athletes, as well as how to best teach coaches to use autonomy-supportive coaching strategies. Overall, autonomy-supportive coaching and coaches’ development of a task-oriented motivational climate have great potential to foster positive experiences among adolescent athletes in comparison to controlling coaches; thus, it is important to translate this knowledge to sport organizations, coach education programs, coaches, and parents.

Parents

Parents are viewed as socializers of young athletes’ experiences (Fredricks & Eccles, 2004), as they are involved in exposing children to sport opportunities, driving children to and from games and practices, paying for sport-related expenses such as registration fees, equipment, and travel costs, providing feedback to athletes about their successes and failures in sport, and in some cases coaching or managing adolescent athletes’ teams. The breadth of research on parents in youth sport is vast, touching on topics concerning parent and spectator behaviors in youth sport settings (Bowker et al., 2009; Dorsch, Smith, Wilson, & McDonough, 2015; Holt, Tamminen, Black, Mandigo, & Fox, 2009; Holt, Tamminen, Black, Sehn, & Wall, 2008; Lauer, Gould, Roman, & Pierce, 2010), parent–athlete relationships (e.g., Carr, 2009; Clarke, Harwood, & Cushion, 2016), and the experiences of parents as a consequence of their involvement in their child’s sport activities (e.g., Burgess, Knight, & Mellalieu, 2016; Dorsch, Smith, & McDonough, 2009; Harwood & Knight, 2009). Although it is beyond the scope of this article to review all these areas, the following section reviews some of the current research related to parental pressure and support, parent behaviors in sport, and the influence of parent-initiated motivational climates for adolescent athletes’ sport experiences.

Positive parental involvement in youth sport and parental support have been associated with numerous beneficial outcomes for athletes, including greater sport enjoyment, increased effort, and greater commitment, motivation, and sport competence (e.g., Anderson, Funk, Elliott, & Smith, 2003; Babkes & Weiss, 1999; Chan et al., 2012; Scanlan & Lewthwaite, 1986). However, despite the positive outcomes associated with parental support and involvement in their child’s sport participation, there is considerable evidence that parental pressure and the use of directive or controlling behaviors by parents is associated with increased anxiety among adolescent athletes (Bois, Lalanne, & Delforge, 2009; Lewthwaite & Scanlan, 1989). Parental attendance at competitions has been associated with increased precompetitive anxiety among adolescent athletes (Bois et al., 2009), and parents’ performance-based goals for their children (e.g., wanting their child to perform well compared to others) have been associated with heightened worry in young athletes (Kaye, Frith, & Vosloo, 2015). Additionally, researchers have suggested that parents’ punitive behaviors, controlling behaviors, and high expectations for their child’s achievement may contribute to the development of fear of failure (Sagar & Lavallee, 2010), and negative parental behaviors have been reported as contributors to burnout among competitive adolescent athletes (Gould, Tuffey, Udry, & Loehr, 1996).

While negative parental behaviors in sport have been associated with negative outcomes for adolescent athletes, there is evidence that parental pressure is not uniformly negative or harmful for adolescent athletes. Longitudinal research among early adolescent swimmers suggested that athletes who reported high parental pressure as well as a parent-initiated motivational climate that was mastery oriented in nature (e.g., supportive of athlete effort and individual improvement) reported lower trait anxiety compared to athletes who reported high parental pressure and a low parent-initiated mastery climate. Similarly, athletes who perceived a combination of high parental pressure and a low parent-initiated ego climate (e.g., emphasizing social comparisons and defining success as outperforming others) reported lower anxiety compared to athletes who reported high pressure and a high parent-initiated ego climate (O’Rourke, Smith, Smoll, & Cumming, 2011). Additional research suggests that athletes may perceive pressure from their parents, even if their parents are not engaging in any pressuring, controlling, or directive behaviors (Lauer et al., 2010). Furthermore, parents’ assessments of their own behaviors are often not congruent or concordant with their child’s assessments of parental behaviors in sport. For example, Dorsch, Smith, and Dotterer (2016) noted a general lack of agreement between mother, father, and athlete reports of relationship warmth and conflict, positive and negative parental affect, and coach-created motivational climate variables in youth sport. This supports previous research by Kanters and Casper (2008) indicating that the amount of pressure reported by athletes was higher than the amount of pressure parents thought they exerted on their children. Similarly, Babkes and Weiss (1999) found that athletes’ perceptions of parental attitudes and behaviors were more strongly associated with athletes’ enjoyment, motivation, and competence compared to the self-reported attitudes and beliefs of parents regarding their child’s sport participation. Thus, parents’ perceptions of their child’s youth sport environment and their own behaviors in youth sport may not align with experiences reported by athletes themselves. Dorsch et al. (2016) highlighted the complexity in conceptualizing parental support and pressure, as these constructs were both associated with athlete reports of parental warmth, positive affect, and conflict. Thus, parental behaviors that might be described as negative or coercive may or may not be perceived as parental pressure by athletes and parents themselves, and they must be situated and understood within the broader context of parent–athlete relationships and approaches to parenting.

Overall, though, supportive parenting in sport is generally associated with behaviors such as parental warmth, positive affect, and supporting a mastery climate for adolescent athletes, whereas parental pressure is associated with conflict, negative affect, and a parent-initiated ego-oriented motivational climate (Dorsch et al., 2016). Qualitative research among adolescent athletes suggests that they value these types of supportive behaviors before, during, and after competitions (Knight, Neely, & Holt, 2011), and parents may foster optimal sport experiences among adolescent athletes by sharing and communicating goals with their athlete, developing an understanding emotional climate, developing self-awareness regarding one’s own behaviors in the youth sport environment, and engaging in emotional self-control when reacting to their child’s performance and mistakes (Knight & Holt, 2014; Lauer et al., 2010). Moreover, evidence from applied intervention research demonstrates that athletes’ goal involvement and cognitions are influenced by the comments and feedback provided by parents (e.g., Gershgoren, Tenenbaum, Gershgoren, & Eklund, 2011), and that athletes’ cognitions, self-regulation, and goal involvement appear to be improved through the use of coordinated parent, player, and coach interventions (e.g., Harwood & Swain, 2002). These findings are encouraging, as they demonstrate that adolescent athletes’ sport experiences appear to be improved through the deliberate implementation of educational programs and interventions in sport.

Peers

In addition to the important role that coaches and parents play in shaping the sport experiences of adolescent athletes, peers are also key social agents who contribute to the sport environment (Smith, 2003). Researchers using AGT (Duda & Nicholls, 1992; Nicholls, 1984) to examine the peer motivational climate have demonstrated that athletes who perceived a task-involving peer motivational climate reported high self-worth, controlling for age and gender among the athletes (Vazou, Ntoumanis, & Duda, 2006). Sport enjoyment was also associated with perceptions of the task-involving peer motivational climate, as well as perceptions of the coach-initiated motivational climate. Furthermore, Vazou (2010) demonstrated that athletes’ perceptions of the peer and coach motivational climate vary across teams; thus, some teams of athletes engage in behaviors that reflect either a task- or ego-involving motivational climate to a greater extent than other teams. It is also worth noting that team success predicted athletes’ perceptions of the peer and coach task-involving motivational climate, which supports the idea that promotion of a task-involving motivational climate is associated with success in sport (Vazou, 2010).

Subsequent prospective research by Jõesaar and colleagues (2011) demonstrated that adolescent athletes’ perceptions of a task-involving peer motivational climate were associated with increased autonomy, competence, and relatedness; in turn, these basic psychological needs were associated with greater intrinsic motivation in sport, which was associated with greater persistence in sport. These results suggest that participating on teams where athletes support one another’s improvement, make others feel valued, and encourage teammates after making mistakes is associated with greater intrinsic motivation for sport and a lower likelihood of dropping out of sport. Jõesaar, Hein, and Hagger (2012) also reported that adolescent athletes’ perceptions of the peer motivational climate, along with perceptions of coach autonomy support, were associated with intrinsic motivation to participate in sport. When compared to the large body of research on parents’ and coaches’ creation of motivational climates among adolescent athletes, there is considerably less research that has examined the influence of peers within the sport experiences of adolescent athletes (Smith, 2003); however, the peer motivational climate is considered to have a distinct influence on the motivation, enjoyment, commitment, and persistence of athletes in youth sport settings.

Extending the examination of behaviors among adolescent athletes and their peers, researchers have also investigated prosocial and antisocial behaviors among young athletes, which extends earlier research in sport psychology on moral development (Weiss, Smith, & Stuntz, 2008). Prosocial and antisocial behaviors consist of the actions that athletes engage in with their teammates and with opponents to voluntarily help or benefit another person, or behaviors intended to harm or disadvantage another person (Kavussanu, 2008). Prosocial behaviors may include giving a teammate a compliment or positive feedback, or helping an injured opponent; conversely, antisocial behaviors may include criticizing others or deliberately attempting to injure another athlete (Kavussanu & Boardley, 2009). One study of prosocial and antisocial behaviors among 329 adolescent athletes reported associations between athletes’ social identity as team members and the extent to which they engaged in prosocial and antisocial behaviors (Bruner, Boardley, & Côté, 2014). Athletes with strong ingroup ties (e.g., perceptions of similarity, bonding, and belonging with team members; Cameron, 2004) and ingroup affect (e.g., positive feelings toward team members) reported greater task cohesion and social cohesion within their teams. Ingroup affect was also positively associated with prosocial behaviors toward teammates, suggesting that athletes who have strong positive feelings toward their team members are more likely to report engaging in prosocial behaviors toward teammates. Furthermore, multilevel analysis of data from 439 adolescent athletes suggested that the moral atmosphere of the team may predict the prosocial or antisocial behaviors of team members; thus, belonging to a “good” or a “bad” team may influence the likelihood that adolescent athletes will engage in positive or negative behaviors toward their teammates and opponents (Rutten et al., 2011). Related research examining interpersonal processes of emotion regulation among adolescent athletes indicates that athletes’ efforts to improve or worsen their teammates’ emotions are associated with their own sport enjoyment and commitment, and these relationships were moderated by the team emotional climate and the peer motivational climate within the team (Tamminen, Gaudreau, McEwen, & Crocker, 2016). Furthermore, Bortoli, Messina, Zorba, and Robazza (2012) found that the moral atmosphere within teams of adolescent soccer players was directly associated with athletes’ antisocial behaviors. Thus, the social norms and perceived moral atmosphere within the team regarding the acceptability of antisocial behaviors may lead to athletes engaging in greater antisocial behaviors toward teammates and opponents.

One form of antisocial behavior that is gaining increased attention from researchers is bullying within adolescent sport teams. Bullying in sport is defined as “a pattern of physical, verbal, or psychological behaviors between peers (e.g., teammates) that have the potential to be harmful” (Stirling, Bridges, Cruz, & Mountjoy, 2011). These behaviors can include hitting or shoving teammates, stealing teammates’ equipment, excluding a teammate from social activities or from sport performance (e.g., not passing the ball to a teammate), teasing, and hazing or initiation rituals (see Stirling et al., 2011, for a review). These types of behaviors may lead to negative consequences including depression, anxiety, poorer ability to develop relationships with others, eating disorders, and substance abuse (Stirling et al., 2011). Bullying behaviors have also been reported to extend beyond adolescence by collegiate student–athletes (Kerr, Jewett, MacPherson, & Stirling, 2016). Thus, efforts are needed to recognize and prevent the development and perpetuation of antisocial behaviors and bullying in sport, given the potential for a host of negative psychosocial outcomes for adolescent athletes. It is encouraging, however, that athletes within teams that endorse more prosocial behaviors are more likely to report similar positive behaviors themselves. Additionally, Rutten et al. (2011) reported that athletes who perceived supportive relationships with their coach had lower levels of antisocial behaviors and higher levels of prosocial behaviors, suggesting that coaches play an important role in affecting the moral behaviors of athletes within their teams, and highlighting the importance of considering the interactive effects of coach and teammate behaviors in sport contexts.

It is important to acknowledge that parents, coaches, and peers all contribute to the socialization of sport experiences among adolescent athletes (Harwood, Keegan, et al., 2015). For example, it appears that parental involvement and influence in sport fluctuates as adolescents mature and develop (Chan et al., 2012; Jowett & Cramer, 2010; Lauer et al., 2010), and it is important to consider how athlete relationships and interactions with parents and coaches interactively contribute to their experiences in sport. For example, recent research by Gaudreau and colleagues (2016) investigated interactions between athletes’ perceptions of parent and coach autonomy support with sport motivation, need satisfaction, and self-reported achievement in two studies among adolescent male and female soccer players and female gymnasts. The results supported the idea of a compensatory–protective interaction whereby athletes benefited most from high levels of coach autonomy support when they did not perceive high levels of parental autonomy support. Thus, coaches’ autonomy support may be particularly beneficial for those athletes who may lack autonomy-supportive parental involvement in sport. Additional research by Atkins, Johnson, Force, and Petrie (2015) demonstrated that parent, coach, and peer motivational climates were all positively associated with the task goal orientation of adolescent male athletes, which was in turn associated with the athletes’ perceptions of sport competence, self-esteem, and sport enjoyment. Furthermore, enjoyment and self-esteem positively predicted the athletes’ intention to continue playing sport. Taken together, these results highlight the importance of considering the combined influence that parents, coaches, and peers have on the sport experiences and continued participation of adolescent athletes.

Conclusion

There are a number of psychosocial issues facing researchers and practitioners concerned with improving the sport experiences of adolescent athletes. Key among these are issues related to changing stressors and the need to develop coping skills to deal with the demands of the sport environment. There is increasing evidence demonstrating how adolescent athletes of different ages and developmental stages use various strategies to cope with stressors in sport, and the important role that parents, coaches, and peers play in the development of coping strategies. Future research will benefit from increased attention to the social context that influences the development and use of effective and flexible coping strategies among adolescent athletes. Burnout, perfectionism, and passion are also important issues for adolescent athletes, as increasing training loads, motivation to compete and achieve at higher levels of competition, high expectations for one’s performance, and the desire to gain approval from others may lead to negative psychosocial outcomes for athletes. This article also emphasized the important role that coaches, parents, and peers play in the sport experiences of adolescents. In particular, the adoption of mastery-supportive approaches to coaching and efforts to establish and maintain a coach, parent, and peer motivational climate that emphasizes personal improvement and effort are important for promoting positive sport experiences, higher achievement, and prolonged engagement in sport.

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