International research on pre-elite youth sport

nooraHART researchers, led by Dr Noora Ronkainen of the University of Jyväskylä and HART associate, in conjunction with Dr Tatiana Ryba (Jyväskylä) and Prof Jacquelyn Allen-Collinson (Lincoln), have been undertaking research, based in Finland, on the lives of pre-elite youth athletes. Their latest article has been published in The Sport Psychologist. Whilst sport provides many youth athletes with a central life project, very few eventually fulfil their athletic dreams, which may lead them to disengage from sport entirely. Little has been known previously about how youth athletes actually reconstruct their relationship with sport and embodiment post-retirement from sport.

These issues were explored in the story of ‘Pilvi’ (pseudonym) a Finnish alpine skier who disengaged from sport in late adolescence. Employing an existential-phenomenological approach, six in-depth interviews with Pilvi, combined with visual methods, identified key themes relating to the body, space, culture, and time. The findings highlight the difficulty of building a new relationship with sport and the often restrictive cultural horizons of sport and exercise culture that limit future ‘possible selves’. The findings have significant implications for applied practitioners helping youth athletes, including effectively supporting these athletes in leaving their sport. The article can be accessed here.

About Prof Jacquelyn Allen-Collinson

Professor in Sociology & Physical Culture, and Director, Health Advancement Research Team (HART), University of Lincoln.

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