Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Attrition in School Rowing in New Zealand: A Qualitative Descriptive Study

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Attrition in School Rowing in New Zealand: A Qualitative Descriptive Study

Article excerpt

It is widely acknowledged that participation in sport can provide a range of holistic health benefits for young people (Fraser-Thomas, Cote, & Deakin, 2005). However, the period of adolescence has been identified as a time when high rates of attrition in sport occur (Balish, Rainham, Blanchard, & McLaren, 2014). In this study we draw upon the definition of attrition by Gould and Petchlikoff (1988) as the prolonged absence of systematic practice and competition. Participation rates in youth sport would appear to peak at 12 years of age and from that age forward there is a common trend of decline, which accelerates toward the end of the school years (Slater & Tiggemann, 2010). These high attrition rates suggest that the benefits of sport are outweighed or undermined by other factors linked to the sport context as it operates in the high-school environment (Humbert et al., 2006). Fraser-Thomas, Cote, and Deakin (2008), and more recently Crane and Temple (2015) have noted that research has tended to focus on predominantly quantitative approaches to examine the reasons why adolescents no longer participate in sport. Quantitative studies are able to capture the most important antecedents of behaviour but rarely provide sufficient depth to discover more about why something actually happened. It would seem to be important, therefore, that researchers pursue an in-depth understanding of the reasons for attrition in sport. We suggest that a useful theoretical lens through which to pursue a greater understanding of attrition in sport is the self-determination theory (SDT).

SDT is a motivation theory used to explain the reasons behind individuals' behaviours and decisions to pursue or maintain an activity (Deci & Ryan, 2000). Commonly used to understand optimal functioning in sport and physical activity, SDT proposes that "all humans have a need to feel competent, autonomous and related to others" (Deci & Ryan, 2008, p. 15). It is proposed that the degree to which one can achieve self-determination is dependent upon the degree to which one can satisfy these three basic psychological needs: the need for autonomy, the need for competence, and the need for relatedness. The basic psychological need for competence is met when we perceive our behaviour as effective and we feel that we have adequate ability; the need for autonomy is fulfilled when we perceive ourselves as the instigators of our own behaviour and that we have some control of our actions; and the meeting of the need for relatedness occurs when we experience security and a sense of belonging or connection to others. It has been argued that engaging in behaviour that satisfies these needs will promote optimal functioning, whereas behaviour that fails to meet these needs will lead to dis-satisfying outcomes (Weiss & Amorose, 2008). In their review of correlates of youth sport attrition, Balish et al. (2014) systematically assessed the level of evidence from 23 qualifying studies for each correlate identified. Levels were categorised as high, low, or insufficient. The authors noted that most of the intra-personal level correlates were aligned in some way with SDT, supporting the significance of the three fundamental needs as high quality correlates of youth sport attrition.

Qualitative studies that have adopted an SDT lens to examine attrition are less common. However, the studies that have been conducted have added to the body of knowledge, as they suggest that the need of relatedness is especially significant for young athletes and appear to confirm the importance of supporting the fundamental psychological needs of adolescents. For example, Williams, Whipp, Jackson, and Dimmock (2013) conducted semi-structured interviews with 10 young female golfers. Their content analysis--which was informed by a SDT framework--found that participants who felt supported by their parents, coaches, and peers as well as feeling a sense of belonging and connection to their club were more likely to continue playing golf. …

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