This paper explores young people’s (9 to 15 years old) early socialisation into sport. We draw on data
from an 18-month-long ethnography of the junior section of an athletics club in England, using field notes, interviews and a psychometric questionnaire. We begin by noting a trend towards increasing numbers of younger children participating in adult-organised, community-based sport. Within this context, we investigate the extent to which Siedentop’s [(1995) Junior Sport and the evolution of sport cultures, Keynote presentation to the Junior Sport Forum, Auckland, New Zealand] three main goals for young people’s participation in sport, i.e. the educative, public health and elite development, are met in specific, local junior sport settings such as Forest Athletics Club (FAC). We report that most of the young people participating in the Introductory Groups at FAC begin their socialisation into sport by ‘sampling’ a range of sports and other activities that are available to them. We note the key features of the sampling phase for these young people, including their involvement in sports and other activities in addition to athletics, their reasons for participation, the place of competition and the importance of friendship. We report that FAC created a climate for the Samplers, intentionally or not, conducive to the development of Siedentop’s educative goal, and to a lesser extent the public health and elite development goals. In concluding, we note the implications of the study for community-based programmes run by clubs.
Ann Macphail, Trish Gorely, & David Kirk. University of Limerick, Ireland, Loughborough University, UK.