The foundation of an athlete’s development is formed through their early developmental experiences. Thus, in this study we explored the early sport and play experiences of elite New Zealand hockey players from rural and regional communities. In our examination of how smaller communities contribute to the development of New Zealand’s top athletes, this research has a particular focus on the athletes’ early sport and play experiences and the influence of people around them during their growth and development. In this qualitative descriptive study, we employed semi-structured interviews to gather data from eight current and former elite New Zealand hockey players. The study’s findings contribute to the ongoing debate regarding whether early specialisation positively or negatively influences young athletes’ development. Furthermore, it provides evidence supporting the benefits of a developmental and delayed specialisation pathway to elite performance. Surrounded by a physical, social, and cultural environment that supported freedom and responsibility alongside unstructured, outdoor, risky play experiences, the participants of this study benefited from their early developmental experiences, which supported their pathways to elite level.
early specialisation, deliberate play, family support, semi-structured interviews, developmental model of sport participation
Hockey New Zealand, Elite male and female hockey players involved in the study
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Recommended APA Citation
Newport, R. J., Walters, S. R., Millar, S., Dickson, G., & Lenton, A. (2022). The Early Sport and Play Experiences of Elite New Zealand Hockey Players From Rural and Regional Communities: A qualitative descriptive study. The Qualitative Report, 27(1), 289-313. https://doi.org/10.46743/2160-3715/2022.5201
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