Reconciling competition and positive youth development in sport

By Martin Camiré

The popular discourse in contemporary society remains fervent that sport contributes to the holistic development of the person. However, the debate persists in terms of what constitutes a quality sport experience and how competition should be endorsed in youth sport. The purpose of the current paper is to discuss how youth sport can be reconciled as an activity where competition and positive youth development are inclusive pursuits on the journey towards performance in sport and performance in life. The role of competition in high level sport, sport-for-development, and youth sport is examined to highlight how competition manifests itself differently based on the objectives of each context of practice. An analysis of the positive and negative perspectives on competition reveals how proponents and critics hold polarising views concerning the purpose and place of competition within youth sport. Based on the most probable scenario that competition will continue to be part of youth sport, evidence-based suggestions directed at policy-makers, administrators, and coaches for optimising the use sport as a positive youth development context are offered.


  • performance
  • positive youth development
  • adolescent
  • participation
  • deliberate play
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