Purpose: The rise of sport specialization can jeopardize the opportunities for families of low socioeconomic status (SES) to participate in organized sport. However, obtaining an athletic scholarship may be a motivating factor for low SES youth to sport specialize. Yet, the experiences of low SES athletes in sport participation are not well known. Method: We used an Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) to explore experiences of low SES families with children participating in sport and how this may be impacted by the current youth sport culture that promotes sport specialization.We engaged in semi-structured interviews with 12 low SES parents. Results: The following 4 interrelated themes emerged: (a) Benefits of youth sport participation, (b) Negatives and/or barriers to youth sport participation, (c) Strategies to get involved in youth sport, and (d) Facilitators for youth sport participation. Conclusions: Findings indicate that while low SES youth sport parents are motivated to involve their children in sports, there are many barriers that hinder their opportunities for their child to participate in organized sports. These issues are exacerbated by the current youth sport culture which emphasizes sport specialization with very few existing facilitators to involve their child in organize sport.
Mayrena Isamar Hernandez, PhD, MPH, LAT, ATC is an Athletic Trainer and an Assistant Professor in Athletic Training at Sam Houston State University in the Department of Kinesiology. She has conducted both quantitative and qualitative research on youth sports, sport specialization, and her current focused line of research is on socioeconomic status and the social determinants of health and how that impacts youth sport safety.
Elena Catherine Miller is an undergraduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the Department of Kinesiology. She is a pre-medical student and interested in providing care to the pediatric population.
Laura Prieto, MS is a PhD candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the Department of Kinesiology. Her research focuses on physical activity for adults with Parkinson’s and their care partners.
Luis Columna, PhD is an Associate Professor in the Kinesiology Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research focuses on ways to increase the participation of families (especially Hispanic) of children with disabilities into physical activity and his research focuses on ways to better prepare physical activity professionals and physical education teachers to work with diverse populations.
Kevin Mark Biese, PhD, LAT, ATC is an Athletic Trainer and Assistant Professor in Athletic Training at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in the Department of Kinesiology. His main research interest is to identify modifiable risk factors for sport-related injuries in adolescent populations as well as investigate the association of sport specialization and sports-related concussions with adolescent sport injuries.
David Robert Bell, PhD, ATC is an Athletic Trainer and Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the Department of Kinesiology and Orthopedics and Rehabilitation. His research focuses on identifying risk factors for musculoskeletal injuries with a focus on sport specialization.
We are incredibly grateful to the youth sport parents who participated in this study for sharing their stories with us.
Hernandez MI, Miller EC, Prieto LA, Columna L, Biese KM, Bell DR. The Current Youth Sport Culture and its Impact on Sport Participation Experiences of Low Socioeconomic Status Families. The Internet Journal of Allied Health Sciences and Practice.
2023 Mar 20;21(2), Article 9.