The Youth Sport Specialization Paradox

Project: Research Councils

Project Details


The aim of this project (which will be implemented in collaboration with selected Danish sports federations) is to understand why we see a trend towards early specialization and commitment to elite-like training despite evidence that such practices are not sustainable. Based on an in-depth
qualitative investigation of athletes’ and coaches’ experiences in youth sport, and a multi-case study of three selected youth sport environments the project identifies and explore contextual factors that shape youth sport specialization (e.g., coaches’ knowledge, parental pressure, competition formats,
professionalization, and inter-sport rivalry). Understanding the youth sport specialization paradox is key for sport organizations to promote healthy and youth friendly sport environments, and it is a timely step forward in the research field that is dominated by quantitative measures of training
hours. The specific research questions are:
- What sociocultural factors do athletes perceive as influencing their specialization processes?
- What characterizes coaches’ knowledge of and attitudes towards specialization of youth athletes
and towards their own role, responsibility, and influence on the process of specialization?
- What characterizes youth sport environments that positively support athletes in the formative
years? And what sociocultural mechanisms influence these characteristics?
- What do key stakeholders and international experts identify as contextual barriers for healthy
youth sport specialization processes and potential solutions?
Effective start/end date01/02/202231/07/2026