It is widely acknowledged that involvement in sport has positive physical and psychosocial benefits for adolescents. However, concerns have been expressed, both in New Zealand and internationally, about the relatively high attrition rates in youth sport. This qualitative study captured the experiences of eight (five male, three female) adolescents who were no longer participating in high school rowing programs in New Zealand. Data were gathered through semi-structured interviews, and we conducted an inductive thematic analysis. A secondary analysis was then conducted using a self-determination and basic psychological needs framework that placed specific emphasis on need satisfaction and need thwarting. Key findings from this study suggest that participants’ experiences of rowing were initially positive but were subsequently influenced by dissatisfaction and thwarting of basic psychological needs. The findings confirm the significance of coaches and parents providing an environment that supports young athletes’ needs for relatedness. Concerns are also raised about the potentially damaging effects of weight-restricted sport for adolescents. By drawing upon athlete voice, it is hoped that the findings of this study can inform coach education and result in the development of more athlete-supportive rowing programs for adolescent athletes.


Self-Determination Theory, SDT, Semi-Structured Interviews, Attrition, Adolescents, Rowing, Descriptive Qualitative

Author Bio(s)

Simon Walters is a senior lecturer in the School of Sport and Recreation at AUT University. His research interests relate to children's experiences of sport, the sociology of sport, athlete-centred coaching, and student-centred learning. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: simon.walters@aut.ac.nz.

Rebecca Beattie completed her Master's thesis at AUT University and currently works as the Coach Development Manager for Rowing New Zealand. She is passionate about rowing as a sport and in creating positive sporting experiences for young people. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: rebeccajbeattie@gmail.com.

Anthony Oldham is a senior lecturer in the School of Sport and Recreation at AUT University. His teaching predominantly lies in the sport psychology domain and his research interests relate to perception and action in sport; stress and performance; motivated behavior in sport and exercise; adherence in physical activity; psychology of the ageing performer; and fatigue and psychological performance. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: tony.oldham@aut.ac.nz.

Sarah-Kate Millar is also a senior lecturer at AUT. Her research focus is on athlete-centred coaching approaches in both her work with coaches and students. She is particularly interested in enhancing coaches’ effectiveness through the use of constraints when working with athletes; and increasing coaches’ self-awareness of their own coaching and how this impacts on athlete learning. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: sarahkate.millar@aut.ac.nz.


This study is drawn from a Master's study conducted by Rebecca Beattie in 2014.

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