Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 18, Issue 6, pp 601–615 | Cite as

The sporting life: Athletic activities during early adolescence

  • Carol E. Kirshnit
  • Mark Ham
  • Maryse H. Richards


The decline in sports participation that begins in early adolescence has been well documented, and there has been considerable controversy regarding the reasons for this attrition. The present study addressed the attrition process by focusing on the subjective experience of sports as a function of grade, gender, and sport context. Following the procedures of the Experience Sampling Method, 401 5th–9th-grade boys and girls carried electronic pagers, similar to those worn by doctors, for one week, and filled out self-report forms on their activities and subjective states in response to signals received at random times. Older respondents spent less time in sports than their younger peers. This age difference was due primarily to a decline in informal sports participation, with less pronounced attrition from organized sports. Our findings suggest that the reasons for attrition from sport may be context specific. While informal sports were experienced more positively than gym class or organized sports, perceptions of skill were lowest during informal sports and declined with age. It seems youngsters stop participating in organized sports because these activities are less enjoyable to them, while attrition from informal sports is more performance based. Boys spent more time in sports than girls, and this difference was based primarily upon significant gender differences in informal sports participation. In spite of their differential rates of participation, boys and girls reported similar levels of affect, arousal, and skill during sports.


Experience Sampling Subjective State Subjective Experience Early Adolescence Significant Gender Difference 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carol E. Kirshnit
    • 1
  • Mark Ham
    • 2
  • Maryse H. Richards
    • 3
  1. 1.Counseling CenterUniversity of Illinois at ChicagoChicago
  2. 2.Committee on Human DevelopmentThe University of ChicagoChicago
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyLoyola University of ChicagoChicago

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