Junior Sport Framework

Junior Sport Framework       
Prepared by  Prepared by: Dr Ralph Richards and Christine May, Senior Research Consultants, Clearinghouse for Sport, Sport Australia (formerly Australian Sports Commission)
evaluated by  Evaluation by:   Graeme Murphy, School of Health and Sport Sciences, University of the Sunshine Coast (February 2017)
Reviewed by  Reviewed by network: Australian Sport Information Network (AUSPIN)
Last updated  Last updated: 21 January 2020
Please refer to the Clearinghouse for Sport disclaimer page for
more information concerning this content.

Community Sport Coaching
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Sport participation during childhood offers many immediate and long-term benefits; including the formation of positive physical activity behaviours, development of life-skills and physical literacy, and cognitive and social functioning. Policies and strategies that promote enjoyable and challenging junior sport experiences will encourage greater participation as well as target personal and social development outcomes.

Key Messages 


Sports policies and programs that encourage enjoyable, safe, inclusive, and challenging experiences for children will support better and longer-lasting participation outcomes.


Developmentally appropriate sports programs achieve one (or more) of three broad outcomes for children and adolescents – fun, fitness, and friendship (i.e. social interaction).

Junior sport is usually defined as inclusive of participants 12 years and under, although a range of cut-off ages may apply across the wide range of sports and modified sports. Because the rate of maturation and attainment of developmental benchmarks among children is variable, and subject to genetic as well as environmental factors, there is no single transition point from ‘junior’ sport to more senior levels of sporting involvement. In many sports (swimming, gymnastics, tennis, and golf to name a few) the accomplishments of athletes in their early teens are comparable to past performances from ‘adult’ athletes. Generational improvement in sporting performance may be attributed to many factors, including (this list is not meant to be exhaustive):

  • Access to well-structured training programs that begin at a young age.
  • Improved coaching methods, equipment, and facilities.
  • Improved physical preparation, nutrition, recovery, and injury prevention strategies.
  • Access to performance development and competition pathways.

However, there is considerable empirical and anecdotal evidence suggesting that too much emphasis on early-age sporting success may compromise one’s continued sporting participation and potential. A number of theoretical models for lifetime sporting development have gained credibility; including ‘Long-Term Athlete Development’ (LTAD), which is a core principle of the Canadian Sport for Life movement, and the ‘FTEM Framework’ (Foundations, Talent, Elite and Mastery) developed by the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS).

More information can be found in the Clearinghouse for Sport topic, Athlete Pathways & Development

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has critically evaluated the current state of science and practice of youth athlete development and presented recommendations for developing healthy, resilient, and capable youth athletes, while providing opportunities for all levels of sport participation and success. The IOC also recognises that despite a predominance of popular frameworks, gaps in the youth athletic development pathway exist.

International Olympic Committee consensus statement on youth athletic development, Bergeron M, et.al., British Journal of Sports Medicine, Volume 49 (2015). There are many challenges for stakeholders in providing youth sport programs; among them: (1) creating an inclusive environment; (2) providing sustainable and enjoyable participation opportunities, and; (3) offering programs for all levels of individual athletic talent. At the initial sports participation stage, inappropriate guidance or developmental activities may compromise fundamental skill acquisition; and increase the risk of injury, burnout, dropout and unrealised talent potential. Furthermore, individual athletic performance and achievement is underpinned by a sport-specific mix of attributes and skills (e.g. technical, perceptual, neurocognitive, psycho-social and physical) that are, in turn, altered by environmental factors, sports system design, and chance factors. Because of this complexity there is a low rate of conversion from youth sport to elite sport success. Therefore, athlete development frameworks must adopt a holistic approach that embraces the multidimensional nature of athlete development while advocating ‘best practice’ at each developmental phase; rather than age-related prescription based on performance alone. Frameworks should be flexible, to embrace the inherent complexity and non-linearity of athlete development. A diversity of sport activities during childhood allows young athletes to experience a range of opportunities and then select (or be selected to) a specific path of more targeted training activities during adolescence and young adulthood. Empirical evidence shows that a diversity of activities (including variations of play and practice) during the early development stages is an indicator of continued involvement in more intense activities later in life, including both elite performance and continued participation in sport.

Evidence-based policies for youth sport programmes, Cote J and Hancock D, International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, (published online 26 June 2014). The authors present a global picture of youth sport policies that address the 3Ps, performance, participation and personal development, and review the supporting evidence. The authors support the case that performance, participation and personal development outcomes are not necessarily incompatible. Based upon the evidence the authors make ten recommendations that should be considered in the design of programs for youth, particularly for children under the age of 13 years; five the recommendations relate to competition programming and five relate to coaching. The recommendations related to competition include: (1) regulate the length of a season to three or four months, with a maximum of six months; (2) limit lengthy travel requirements to organised competitions; (3) introduce ‘grassroots’ programs that focus on diversity (i.e. developing many skills); (4) adopt selection policies that are inclusive – ‘talent’ based selection policies should come later in adolescence, and; (5) provide healthy competitive experiences, but do not over-emphasise winning. The five recommendations related to coaching philosophy and practice are: (1) discourage early specialisation; (2) allow young children to play all positions in team sports; (3) promote deliberate play within and beyond organised sport; (4) design practice activities that focus on fun, and; (5) understand children’s needs and do not ‘over coach’ them.

Every sport's participation and athlete development structure will be slightly different, but take into consideration a number of core principles upon which junior sport policies and program development are based.

  1. Recognition that motivation for participation is based upon ‘enjoyment’; which may include many things, such as: having fun, acquiring skills, and experiencing positive self-concept and interaction with others.
  2. Flexibility in program design to account for the variability in the rate of maturation among children. Program design may also consider whether gender inclusion (i.e. boys and girls competing together) is desirable and age appropriate.
  3. Recognition of the physical and psychological developmental stages and capabilities that exist during childhood. Programs must respond to the capabilities and age appropriate needs of children. The emergence of ‘modified’ sports programs is a direct response to these needs.
  4. Inclusion principles that allow a variety of sport and physical activity opportunities to take place in a safe environment. Child protection in a sporting environment is an overall consideration.
  5. Development of ‘pathways’ so that sporting experiences and learnt skills become part of a long-term or lifetime continuum.

The Junior Sport Framework adopted by each sport will include many policies that address athlete wellbeing, development, and long-term participation. General policies that deal with safety and child protection are often integrated with sport specific policies that target the objectives of the sport. For example, some sports will deem it necessary to have specific policies on competition to safeguard children from overexposure to too many competitions, excessive travel, selection pressures, or injury risks; these are all part of more general child protection strategies. Some sports may adopt policies to clarify their athlete development pathway or address childhood maturation considerations.

As a consequence of the Aussie Sports program, delivered by the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) in the late 1980's and into the 1990's, it was recognised that a broader framework for junior sport programs would help develop consistency and excellence in the delivery of junior sport.  

  • National Junior Sport Policy: A framework for developing junior sport in Australia (PDF - 81 KB), Australian Sports Commission (1994). The Australian Sports Commission and the Confederation of Australian Sport convened a national conference in 1991 to address the structural and philosophical changes required for the more systematic and coordinated provision of junior sport in Australia. This policy framework is the outcome of that discussion and working party consisting of persons from key organisational stakeholders (e.g. State Departments of Sport and Recreation, the Australian Sports Commission, School Sport Australia, Confederation of Australian Sport). The policy contains seven sections: (1) introduction – including mission statement, objectives and rationale; (2) participants – describes players rights and responsibilities; (3) competition – appropriateness for juniors; (4) sport educators – those who deliver junior sport; (5) school and community links; (6) other personnel – outlines the roles and responsibilities of important contributors, and; (7) safety guidelines. 

More information about the legacy of the Aussie Sports program can be found in the Clearinghouse for Sport. 

The ASC created a number of resources intended to inform National Sporting Organisations (NSOs) and guide their development of sport-specific policies and programs as part of a junior sport framework. Nine guidelines were published during the period 2003 to 2005.


  1. Long Term Involvement (PDF  - 66 KB). A major focus of junior sport is the development of life-long participation in sport by providing a quality sports experience so that young people are encouraged to make a lifetime commitment to regular physical activity.
  2. Getting Young People Involved (PDF  - 90 KB). All young people should have an equal opportunity to participate in sport, regardless of ability, body shape, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, geographic location and socio-economic status.
  3. Physical Growth and Maturation (PDF  - 69 KB). For the best physical and skill development, consideration must be given to factors related to growth and maturation to help with decisions about grouping young people for participation.
  4. Sport Pathways (PDF  - 77 KB). Pathways need to be designed for young people to move progressively through sport, based upon their skill, interest, and maturity.
  5. Forming Links (PDF  - 72 KB). Collaboration and communication between stakeholders (e.g. national/state/local sport organisations, governments, schools, commercial providers) can enhance the delivery of junior sport programs.
  6. People Making it Happen (PDF  - 106 KB). The most important resource in junior sport is the people who deliver activities and created the social atmosphere and culture around sport.
  7. Quality Coaching (PDF  - 84 KB). Coaches are influential in shaping young peoples’ attitudes about participation, now and into the future.
  8. Making Sport Safe (PDF  - 78 KB). Sport providers have a legal duty of care to protect the welfare of young people by managing risk factors.
  9. The Law and Sport (PDF  - 91 KB). Legislation exists to protect the safety, health, welfare, and wellbeing of all participants, particularly children and youth. Sport providers must be aware of their responsibilities and obligations.


To further assist sport providers in developing their junior sport framework and specific policies, the ASC created several resources:

Evidence base 

A review of the guidelines in 2012 by the ASC, in consultation with NSO/SSO stakeholders, produced a number of evidence summaries from the published literature. These reviews are intended to inform the Australian sport sector on world best practice. The ASC commissioned UniQuest (University of Queensland) to prepare a review of literature on ten topics relevant to junior sport development. These ‘briefing papers’ cover:

  1. Positive Youth Development through Sport (PDF  - 385 KB), Côté J and Mallett C, UniQuest (2012). This paper outlines the components of a positive development framework for youth sport, that focus on the development of the youth including both participation and elite performance. The ‘positive youth development’ (PYD) perspective means that adults involved in organised sports can have a positive impact through intervention at the policy, programs, and individual levels. The model emphasises the vital role of policy makers in assuring there is infrastructure (i.e. facilities and systems) and accessibility (i.e. inclusion and equity) for all youth to participate in sports programs. The model also highlights the setting features of youth sport programs that should be put in place to further develop better people through sport. Finally, the framework proposes concrete outcomes (e.g. competence, confidence, connection, and character) that should be the focus of any sport program that aims to develop positive assets, performance, and continued participation in youth sport.
  2. Health and Welfare of Junior Sport Participants and Safe Delivery of Junior Sport (PDF  - 362 KB), Hallinan C, UniQuest (2012). Organised sports programs for juniors are highly valued in Australia as an important learning and growth experience. This paper explores the positive and negative elements that may be encountered in junior sports. The safe delivery of junior sports participation is normally guided and regulated by national sports organisations, but administered for most participants through local sports clubs across the country. Coaches, team managers, parents, and other volunteers play are vital role in the provision of a safe and healthy junior sports setting; their contribution is discussed.
  3. Sport for Development and Community Building (PDF  - 344 KB), Hanrahan S, Nelson A and Rynne S, UniQuest (2012). Although the idea of using sport for non-sport purposes is not new, there are increasing efforts to scrutinise the potential, as well as the limitations, of sport in achieving a range of personal, community, national, and international development objectives. This paper considers the role of sport in terms of: (1) peace and reconciliation; (2) social justice; (3) education; (4) health and wellbeing, and; (5) corporate social responsibility. It should be noted that as a field of interest, sport for development is relatively new compared to other topics within the Junior Sport Framework. This paper draws upon this emerging but somewhat limited body of knowledge.
  4. Cost of Participation (PDF  - 296 KB), Hoye R, UniQuest (2012). This paper reviews the evidence base regarding the cost of junior sport participation; specifically, what is known of the true costs of participating in junior sport and the impact of these costs. It draws on a number of empirical studies from around the world and a limited number of reviews. It identifies what is not yet known about the relationship between cost of participation and the effect on participation rates. It concludes by providing some recommendations.
  5. Role of Adults in Junior Sport (PDF  - 353 KB), Mallett C and Rynne S, UniQuest (2012). The quality of a young person’s sporting experience is contingent upon the quality of adult leadership. Ideally, adults should be responsible for assisting children and youth in their general development, as well as specific sport and psychosocial skills, while enjoying their sporting experiences. This paper reviews the evidence.
  6. The role of external providers in Junior Sport (PDF  - 389 KB), Williams B, Macdonald D and Hay P, UniQuest (2012). New providers of access to junior sport experiences, coaching and competition opportunities are challenging existing forms of service. In this paper, attention is given primarily to the role of private (i.e. commercial) providers.
  7. Trends in sport and physical activity participation in Australian children and youth (PDF  - 647 KB), Trost S, UniQuest (2012). This paper looks at the gaps in our knowledge about current and long-term sport participation in Australia. It considers the importance of factors such as age, gender, socioeconomic status, cultural and ethnic background.
  8. Growth and Maturation (PDF  - 383 KB), Bailey D, Engstrom C and Hanrahan S, UniQuest (2012). Although the majority of research has focused on biophysical growth and development (i.e. associated with muscle, bone and physiological function) through sport involvement; it’s now acknowledged that children’s psychosocial growth and development (i.e. associated with feelings, attitudes, and beliefs) and social interaction with others may be strongly influenced through their sport experience. Quality experiences for children in sport settings have been shown to support appropriate development across several domains. This paper reviews the evidence.
  9. Opportunities and Pathways from Beginners to Elite to Ensure Optimum and Lifelong Involvement (PDF  - 987 KB), Cȏté J,  UniQuest (2012). The concept of pathways to ensure optimal development in sport is based on the assumption that different learning and motivational demands are important at different ages and levels of involvement (e.g. recreational, social, competitive) in sport. This paper focuses on the activities that are likely to change throughout development as a participant moves through different pathways of sport involvement.
  10. Historical Cultural and Social Perspectives (PDF  - 674 KB), Phillips M and Macdonald D, UniQuest (2012). Organised sport for youth is a phenomenon of the second half of the 20th century, shaped by factors such as ability (able bodied or with disability), gender, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and location (rural or urban). This paper traces the development of junior sport in Australia.

Other considerations

The role of adults serving in key positions (e.g. coaches, officials, administrators, volunteers) within the sport sector workforce was highlighted in the literature. More information can be found in the Clearinghouse for Sport under these topics: Community Sport Coaching, Community Sport Officiating, Engaging Parents in Sport, and Volunteers in Sport.

A multitude of factors influence a child’s and his/her parents decision to participate in sport. By recognising what motivates children to first engage in sport and then continue their participation, sporting organisations can develop ‘child friendly’ policies and practices. The ASC Market Segmentation for Sports Participation studies provide information to help organisations refine strategies to recruit and retain adults, children, parents, and volunteers in sport and sport clubs and ensure our sporting landscape remains strong.

More information can be found in the Clearinghouse for Sport topic, Sport Participation in Australia.

Continuing research & resource development

Top 10 Tips for Parents 

The ASC has continued to focus research and resource development on engaging children in sport. In 2015 they released the Top 10 Tips for Parents which provide evidence-based advice on how to best facilitate a child's sporting development. 

  • Tip 1 - Fundamental movement skills
  • Tip 2 - Deliberate play
  • Tip 3 - Family support
  • Tip 4 - Age-modified sport formats and equipment
  • Tip 5 - Sport sampling
  • Tip 6 - Smart practice
  • Tip 7 - Observational skills
  • Tip 8 - Self-regulation
  • Tip 9 - The 'sport-ready athlete'
  • Tip 10 - Right coach and club fit 

Teaching Sport to Children Discussion Paper

In 2017 the ASC produced a discussion paper on Teaching Sport to Children, which was open to consultation from individuals and organisations with expertise or interest in this area of development. The goal of the discussion paper was to contribute to reinvigorating sport and physical activity in children’s lives by ensuring that the people who deliver physical activity to children are suitably prepared and supported in their roles. It was developed as part of a broader commitment to address the nationwide decline of sport in our communities and schools, and the increasingly low levels of physical activity of Australian children. 

Physical Literacy

Development of physical literacy skills is often one of the core outcomes discussed in relation to children's participation in junior or modified sports. In 2016/2017 the ASC undertook a project that brought together eminent scholars and practitioners to review the concept of ‘Physical Literacy’ within an Australian context and develop an Australian Australian physical literacy definition.

Physical literacy is lifelong holistic learning acquired and applied in movement and physical activity contexts. It reflects ongoing changes integrating physical, psychological, cognitive and social capabilities. It is vital in helping us lead healthy and fulfilling lives through movement and physical activity.Consensus Statement defining Physical Literacy (2017)  

This definition separates physical literacy from the obligation to always predispose the individual to healthy, active lifestyles. It is possible to possess excellent physical literacy but be temporarily lacking in physical activity and – alternatively – that a person might participate in frequent and vigorous physical activity without possessing strong physical literacy. The defining statements make it clear that every person has the potential to learn through movement and physical activity, and that skills can be developed to a level where regular physical activity is self-perpetuating. Thus, the nature of the movement you engage in, and the context in which it occurs, can both influence whether the resulting development in physical literacy is adaptive or not.

The Draft Australian Physical Literacy Standard (the Standard) builds on the development of the Australian Physical Literacy Definition to provide a framework that all Australians can use to support lifelong participation in movement and physical activity. The Standard is designed to build a consistent understanding of physical literacy and how it can be developed, meaning it can be used by everyone including children, parents, coaches, and educators.  It supports individuals to identify and reflect on their proficiency across four interrelated domains—physical, psychological, cognitive, and social—and plan for development to support their lifelong participation in movement and physical activity.

More information on the definition and draft standard for physical literacy are available on the Sport Australia (formerly Australian Sports Commission) website. Additional information and research is in the Clearinghouse for Sport, Physical Literacy and Sport topic. 

These junior sport policies have been developed by National Sporting Organisations (NSOs).

  • Australian Football Match Policy: AFL guidelines for the conduct of Australian Football for players aged 5-18 years (PDF  - 11.6 MB), AFL, (2016). It is vital that providers of the game are familiar with, and adopt, the procedures contained in this policy to ensure participating boys and girls have a fun, safe and positive football experience that is suitable to their needs. We don’t want to put kids in adult environments too early and that includes large grounds, congested play, unnecessary physicality and an over-emphasis on winning when skill development is more important.
  • Junior Cycling Policy (PDF  - 1.3 MB), Cycling Australia (2015). This policy is designed to assist all cycling administrators, coaches and volunteers in the development and provision of safe, healthy and fun environments in which young people can participate in cycling. The primary focus of this policy is junior cycling programs covering participants aged between 5-12 years but information on development and appropriate activities for young people up to 17+ years is also included. Sections of the policy include these topic areas: quality coaching, understanding learning and developing skills, planning, safety considerations, liability, images of children, privacy, health and safety, facilities and equipment, training and competition, physiological considerations, environmental conditions, medical considerations, and dealing with emergencies.
  • Junior Netball Policy (PDF  - 5.2 MB), Netball Australia, (2015). 
  • Junior Sport Policy (PDF  - 1.5 MB), Cricket Australia, (2004).
  • Junior Sport Policy (PDF  - 245 KB), Swimming Australia, (2008).
Athletics Australia announced a Junior Sport Policy consultation on 25 October 2017 to be completed by Benita Willis. The consultation period is expected to take several months with policy development set to begin in mid-2018. Background information and details for submissions can be found on the Athletics Australia website.  

More information relevant to developing junior sport policies can be found in the Clearinghouse for Sport topics, Child Protection in Sport and Cost of Sports Injuries, as well as on the Play by the Rules website.

Other examples of sport-specific policies that may sit within a junior sport framework include:

  • Hot weather guidelines (PDF  - 147 KB), Softball Australia (2010). Children may be particularly vulnerable to environmental conditions.
  • Kinder Gym guiding principles (PDF - 509 KB), Gymnastics Australia (2014). Guidelines for clubs to be recognised providers of Gymnastics Australia’s 5 years and under program, Kinder Gym. Attention is given to the developmental needs of children at this age.
  • Laws of Mini Football & Mod League (PDF  - 1.3 MB), 27th edition, Corcoran P, National Rugby League (2013). This document provides options for competition formats among junior players (ages 6 to 12 years) in regional locations where participation numbers and maturation levels must be considered.
  • Rule tolerances policy (PDF  - 144 KB), Swimming Queensland (2008). This policy allows swimming officials the flexibility to interpret competitive swimming rules used in Queensland competitions so that junior swimmers (under the age of 10 years) are not unnecessarily disqualified for technical infractions.

Many of the policies, guidelines, rules, etc. applicable to junior sport are intended to manage adult as well as participant expectations.


The behaviour of players, parents, coaches/teachers, administrators/officials, and media/spectators will impact upon the attitudes and values learnt from junior sport involvement. Young people involved in sport have a right to participate in a safe and supportive environment. Sport Australia (formerly Australian Sports Commission) has developed a set of guidelines to remind and encourage all Australians involved in junior sport to support and nurture players by demonstrating appropriate behaviour.

  • Junior Sport Codes of Behaviour (PDF  - 267 KB), Australian Sports Commission (2005). 
  • Let Kids be Kids, Play by the Rules, (2017). Let Kids be Kids is a national campaign that addresses poor sideline behaviour - largely at junior sport. The behaviour of people on the sidelines of junior sport can have a profound impact on kids' participation and enjoyment of sport. The website provides a range of resources to help address poor sideline behaviour. The first section focuses on understanding the issue of poor sideline behaviour and the impact it has on kids. Then provides resources to help 'build your own toolkit' on the issue in the 'what can you do?' section. Finally, you can see some examples of strategies to address sideline behaviour. 
Further information is also available in the Clearinghouse for Sport, Engaging Parents in Sport, topic. 

Training and competition

Child development specialists have questioned traditional thinking that training in youth sports (particularly team sports) is solely to prepare young athletes for competition. Evidence suggests that training environments help young athletes achieve learning outcomes, skill acquisition, team dynamics (e.g. working cooperatively with others), fitness (e.g. vigorous physical activity), and enjoyment (e.g. having fun). Although successful competition is still an objective, the element of ‘winning’ is perhaps less important (as a long term objective) and has been de-emphasised in many junior sport programs. Also, traditional notions regarding the value of early specialisation are being questioned.

  • Competition is a Good Servant, but a Poor Master (PDF - 849 KB), Way R and Balyi I, Canadian Sport for Life (2007). Competition is a critical issue in all sports, especially team sports. Unfortunately, the system of competition in many sports was never properly designed; it simply ‘evolved’ on the basis of ‘tradition’, without consideration for the sport science or athlete development. This report raises a number of issues and highlights the challenges faced by sports programs in Canada, based upon current ‘best practice’ principles and the science of athlete development.
  • Transfer of pattern recall skills may contribute to the development of sport expertise (PDF  - 131 KB), Abernethy B, Baker J and Cote J, Applied Cognitive Psychology, Volume 19 (2005). Superior recall of domain-specific movement patterns is well established as a defining attribute of expert performers. Many studies on the developmental histories of expert team ball-sport players suggest that learning a wide range of movement skills and player positions during the formative years may be advantageous and reduce the amount of sport-specific training needed to become an expert.
  • Youth sport specialization: How to manage competition and training? (PDF - 195 KB), Capranica L and Millard-Stafford M, International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, Volume 6, Number 4 (2011). Prevailing thinking in many sports is that elite performance requires specialised early childhood skill development and high training volume. Debate continues whether children specialising early by training and competing in a single sport, have a significant advantage compared with those who sample various sports early and specialise later in adolescence. Retrospective analysis of the childhood sport’s history of elite performers and numerous case studies suggest a variety of pathways can yield elite status later in life. The evidence regarding the long-term effects of rigorous training and competitive schedules on children remains unclear.

More information can be found in the Clearinghouse for Sport topic, Sports Competition Framework.


A review of the literature on the effectiveness of talent detection and identification systems to predict mature-age performance from results during childhood yields equivocal results. Elite adult athletes progress through their sport (or through many sports) along different pathways and at different rates.

  • Patterns of performance development in elite athletes (abstract), Gulbin J, Weissensteiner J, Oldenziel K and Gagne F, European Journal of Sport Science, Volume 13, Number 6 (2013). This investigation sought to contrast generalised models of athlete development with the specific pathway trajectories and transitions experienced by 256 elite athletes across 27 different sports. The collective findings of this investigation demonstrate that, contrary to the popular pyramidal concept of athlete development, a single linear assault on expertise is rare, and that the common normative junior to senior competition transition is mostly characterised by complex oscillations featuring highly varied transitions.

More information can be found in the Clearinghouse for Sport topic, Athlete Pathways and Development.

The major objectives of most junior sport programs include:

  1. develop positive attitudes about physical activity and sport participation so that future participation is more likely;
  2. develop movement skills (usually specific to the sport activity) as part of physical literacy;
  3. develop physiological and psychological characteristics that contribute to both short and long-term physical and mental health outcomes, and; 
  4. develop social and personal attributes that contribute to a child’s development. Increased participation is an important first step.


Getting more children, more active, more often is a major goal of junior sport programs as well as government policy. If junior sport programs are able to impart positive attitudes about physical activity, teach movement skills, improve fitness as an element of better health, and create a culture where socialisation skills are learnt and applied – all within a safe, child centred environment – then junior sport programs are worth the required investment.

In 2015 the ASC released its participation 'game plan', Play.Sport.Australia. It provides a compelling rationale for boosting sport participation in Australia and provides an outline of where the ASC expects sports participation to be in the future, by achieving three key objectives: (1) getting more Australians, particularly children and adolescents, participating in sport more often; (2) year-on-year membership and participation growth for all sports; and (3) helping sporting organisations develop the capacity to deliver products and opportunities Australians want. 

The many benefits of sport participation are well documented, but to achieve them requires effective recruitment and retention strategies so that children (adolescents and young adults) remain motivated to participate.

  • Sport, Culture and the Internet: are Australian children participating? (PDF - 150 KB), The Smith Family Research Report (2013). This analysis helps us understand the extent to which participation varies according to the level of advantage or disadvantage of the community in which children live. There is substantial evidence of the benefits to children of their participation in sport. These benefits are maximised when participation includes a diverse range of activities and they appear to be greatest for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
  • 5-year changes in afterschool physical activity and sedentary behaviour, Arundell L, Ridgers N, Veitch J, Salmon J, Hinkley T and Timperio A, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Volume 44, Issue 6 (2013). Data from two longitudinal studies conducted in Melbourne were used; the Children Living in Active Neighbourhoods Study [CLAN] and the Health, Eating and Play Study [HEAPS]. Follow-up was conducted after 3 and 5 years. The contribution of the afterschool time period to children and adolescents meeting moderate-to-vigorous physical activity targets increased with age, particularly as children enter adolescence. After school sport programs are considered one (of several) ways of increasing moderate-to-vigorous levels of physical activity.
  • Long-term importance of fundamental motor skills: a 20-year follow-up study (PDF  - 107 KB), Lloyd M, Saunders T, Bremer E and Tremblay M, Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly, Volume 31 (2014). This study investigated the potential long-term association of motor skill proficiency at 6 years of age and self-reported physical activity at age 26. Motor skill proficiency at age 6 was significantly related to self-reported proficiency at age 16 and again at age 26. Motor skill proficiency at age 6 was also positively associated with leisure time physical activity later in life. Motor skill can be enhanced through physical education and sport programs in schools and organised sport activities after school.
  • The costs of illness attributable to physical inactivity in Australia: A preliminary study (PDF  - 371 KB), Stephenson J, Bauman A, Armstrong T, Smith B and Bellew B, Department of Health and Aged Care and the Australian Sports Commission (2000). There is evidence that sufficient physical activity can improve health and decrease many risk factors commonly associated with disease. Therefore, the challenge faced by the sports, as well as the health promotion sector, is to encourage large numbers of people to participate in frequent and sufficient physical activity and to change their lifestyle to reduce risk factors.

More information can be found in the Clearinghouse for Sport topics, Sport Participation in Australia and Physical Literacy and Sport.


Sport participation during childhood and adolescence can produce short and long-term benefits in terms of personal health (physical and mental) and social integration and cohesion.

  • Sports for all – Summary of the evidence of psychological and social outcomes of participation (PDF - 1.6 MB), Gould D, Cowburn and Shields A, Elevate Health, a quarterly research digest of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sport & Nutrition, Series 15, Number 3 (2014). The results of studies examining the social and psychological benefits of sports participation clearly show that sports involvement is linked to a number of important benefits; such as enhanced confidence, academic involvement, cooperative work with peers and many other social skills. These effects are more likely to occur when sports programs identify and target these outcomes and use trained coaches and support personnel. When task-oriented and caring motivational climates are created by the persons involved in sports programs, the evidence points to positive outcomes.
  • Physical activity and sedentary behaviors and health-related quality of life in adolescents, Gopinath B, Hardy L, Baur L, Burlutsky G, and Mitchell P, Pediatrics, Volume 130, Number 1 (2012). This research assessed cross-sectional and longitudinal associations between physical activity and sedentary behaviors (television viewing, computer and video-game usage) among 2353 children (median age: 12.7 years). Approximately half of the original sample was resurveyed 5 years later. Regular physical activity over the long-term was associated with higher perceived health-related quality of life among adolescents. Conversely, lower physical activity scores were observed among those who spent the most time in screen-viewing activities.
  • Supporting healthy communities through sports and recreation programs, Ware V and Meredith V, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Institute of Family Studies, Resource Sheet Number 26 produced for the Closing the Gap Clearinghouse (December 2013). There is evidence, in the form of critical descriptions of programs and systematic reviews, of the benefits to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities from participation in sport and recreational programs. Benefits include some improvements in school retention; attitudes towards learning; social and cognitive skills; physical and mental health and wellbeing; increased social inclusion and cohesion; increased validation of and connection to culture; and crime reduction. Although the effects of sports and recreation programs can be powerful and transformative, these effects tend to be indirect; for example: programs to reduce juvenile antisocial behaviour largely work through diversion, providing alternative safe opportunities to risk taking, maintenance of social status, as well as opportunities to build healthy relationships with Elders and links with culture.

More information can be found in the Clearinghouse for Sport topics, Preventive Health, Sport and Physical Activity, and Sport and Mental Health.

The incidence of childhood obesity in Australia, and among many countries around the world, is a major health concern. Physical activity (including sports participation) is one of several lifestyle factors known to decrease obesity, assist in body weight management, and reduce the long-term health risks associated with overweight and obesity. Creating active environments is part of the Australian Government’s preventive health strategy. Approaches that include multiple settings (community programs, schools, etc.) and multilevel strategies (increasing physical activity, decreasing sedentary time, improving diet, etc.) appear to have the greatest effect on physical activity patterns and behavioural change. Structured junior sports programs can contribute to meeting these preventive health objectives.

More information can be found in the Clearinghouse for Sport topic, Childhood Obesity.


Program ‘excellence’ (i.e. best practice) is achieved when program and policy decisions are ‘child centred’. However, this does not mean that personal excellence and striving for high performance outcomes should be excluded. In most sports, programs for junior athletes are part of the overall high performance athlete development plan. Research suggests that a successful progression of athlete development from a young age requires a high level of intrinsic motivation and commitment, rather than external incentives or pressures from adults (i.e. parents or coaches).

  • Differences in self-regulatory skills among talented athletes: The significance of competitive level and type of sport, Jonker L, Elferink-Gemser M and Visscher C, Journal of Sports Sciences, Volume 28, Number 8 (2010). Self-regulation is the extent to which learners exert control over their own learning to master a specific task and to improve their performance. This study looked at the extent to which talented athletes apply cognitive, motivational, and behavioural practices in their own learning process. A total of 222 talented athletes between the ages of 12 and 16 years were studied, they were classified by either team or individual sport and level of sporting achievement (junior-international or junior-national). The results indicated that individual sport athletes scored higher in their ‘planning’ ability and that internationally competing athletes were better at self-regulation. The authors felt that the distinction between internationally and nationally competitive athletes was relevant.
  • Why do they engage in such hard programs? The search for excellence in youth basketball, Goncalves C, Coelho e Silva M, Carvalho H and Goncalves A, Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, Volume 10 (2011). Excellent performance in sport has a strong positive relationship with the accumulated hours of practice. The purpose of this study is to describe the achievement and motivation variables that can explain commitment of 82 elite basketball players under the age of 16 years. The most discriminant variable was ‘Will to Excel’; this was a better predictor of success than accumulated hours of practice or a collective of motor skills assessments. Therefore, the inclusion of measures of specific motivation should be part of a talent identification/orientation assessment.
  • The path to expertise in youth sport: Using a retrospective interview in three different competitive contexts (PDF   - 145 KB), Diogo F and Goncalves C, Perceptual and Motor Skills, Volume 118, Issue 2 (2014). The goal of this study was to identify contextual factors in the path to excellence in youth sport, interviewing 48 male athletes under 17 years of age from a soccer academy and a volleyball club. Although the athletes are first of all adolescents, the characteristics expected to discriminate elite players from their peers playing at a lower level are achievement orientations and the will to become experts through deliberate practice. The motivation to practice at a high level for extended periods of time is a crucial factor. The specialisation years, usually between the ages 14 and 20 may be the foundation of a professional career. How athletes perceive the intensity of training, physical effort, focus on the tasks, and fun, are related to their ability to sustain deliberate practice. The results showed that the environment specificity shapes the way young male athletes perceive their participation and commitment in sport.
  • Development of elite adolescent golfers (PDF  - 433 KB), Hayman R, Polman R, Taylor J, Hemmings B and Borkoles E, Talent Development & Excellence, Volume 3, Number 2 (2011). This study examined the nature of developmental, psychosocial and contextual factors experienced by elite adolescent golfers. Participants were eight adolescent golfers with a handicap of between +2 and +4 who were international junior representative players from England. Participants did not follow a specific specialisation pathway, instead they encountered numerous sporting activities within a playful, developmentally supportive environment until such time as they were selected as international representatives in late adolescence. At that point their deliberate practice in golf became more evident.

Experts generally agree that sport talent development is a complex, dynamic, non‐linear process; and that predicting sport talent years in advance of adulthood is very difficult. The factors that shape sport skill acquisition, expertise, and performance are numerous, and include: biological factors (e.g., genetic ability, neurological adaptations); sociological factors (e.g., luck, critical incidents, socioeconomic status, geographical location); psychological factors (e.g., motivation, emotional control, perceived competence); and educational factors (e.g., coaching, mentoring, parental support).

There is some research that supports an early specialisation pathway in certain sports where peak performance occurs during adolescence. Early specialisation is also a likely pathway for athletes to achieve age-group success. There are numerous accounts of elite athletes taking up their sport very early in life and eventually achieving great success. However, the majority of the research literature suggests that early specialisation is not an essential criterion for later sporting success.

Research also suggests that early sampling of a number of sports activities encourages physical literacy and can lead to numerous positive growth and developmental opportunities. Sport sampling during the skill-acquisition years may also help increase an athlete’s motivation and enjoyment, as well as reduce injury risk.

  • Early specialization in youth sport: A requirement for adult expertise? (PDF  - 72 KB), Baker J, High Ability Studies, Volume 14, Number 1 p85-94 (2003). This review examined the evidence (both for and against) regarding an early specialisation perspective and an early diversification approach, as a pathway to elite sport. The mechanisms by which diversification (e.g. sampling a number of sports) influences skill-development are related to transfer of skills and the effects of cross-training. Diversified training in the early stages of development is generally presented as the preferred model, but with two qualifications. First, transferrable skills must have similar underlying performance elements in order to be useful. Second, the effect of diversified training decreases as the level of expertise increases. Research from the fields of physiology and motor learning support these caveats. Considering the potential consequences of advocating an early specialisation approach, coaches and sport scientists should consider the early diversification approach as a viable alternative.
  • Early sport specialization versus quality physical education (abstract), Jones L and Petlichkoff L, Chronicle of Kinesiology & Physical Education in Higher Education, Volume 19, Number 2 (2008). This article looks at the debate over whether children and youth should specialise in a particular sport, or receive an overall high-quality physical education experience. Youth sport participation literature suggests that children participate in sport because it is fun; because they are good at it; to improve their skill level; to improve health and fitness; and to be part of a team (social inclusion). A long-standing belief that focusing on one sport early in life will lead to greater success later in life is not reflected in the literature. Evidence in the United States suggests otherwise; many studies have shown that early specialisation does not guarantee continued sport participation or success. Retrospective studies that have surveyed parents of senior elite athletes, consistently show that parents encouraged their children to participate in a variety of physical activities during the foundation years of skill development.
  • A look through the rear view mirror: Developmental experiences and insights of high performance athletes, Gulbin J, Oldenziel K, Weissensteiner J and Gagne F, Talent Development & Excellence, Volume 2, Number 2 (2010). Data was collected from the National Athlete Development Survey which chronicles the key developmental experiences and insights of 673 high performance Australian athletes, including 51 Olympians, across 34 sports. Several general themes emerge, including: (1) that high performance athletes are characterised by diverse and high level sports participation prior to specialisation; (2) there is an investment and commitment to training and access to high quality coaching; (3) substantial parental support; (4) an early and enduring passion for sport in general, and; (5) resilience to overcome obstacles and bounce back.
  • Risks and benefits of youth sport specialization (PDF  - 3.8 MB), Wiersma, L, Pediatric Exercise Science, Volume 12 (2000). A growing concern to sport researchers is the practice of young athletes specialising in sport early in life. Sport specialisation is characterised by year-round training in a single sport at the exclusion of other sports and a possible reduction in non-sport activities. Three areas are discussed in this paper: (1) motor skill acquisition and performance; (2) potential sociological consequences, and; (3) psychological concerns related to high-intensity training of young athletes.
  • To sample or to specialize? Seven postulates about youth sport activities that lead to continued participation and elite performance (PDF  - 154 KB), Cote J, Lidor R and Hackfort D, International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, Volume 9, p7-17 (2009). In a number of sports, early sampling serves as the foundation for both elite and recreational sport participation. Early sampling is based on two main elements of childhood sport participation – involvement in various sports, and participation in deliberate play. In contrast, a few sports use an early specialisation approach. This paper proposes seven postulates regarding the role that sampling and deliberate play, as opposed to specialisation and deliberate practice, have on long-term participation in sport.
  • Sports specialization and intensive training in young athletes, Brenner J, Pediatrics, Volume 138, Issue 3(2016). Evidence suggests that when sports specialisation occurs too early, detrimental effects may occur, both physically and psychologically. Young athletes who train intensively, whether specialised or not, can also be at risk of injury and other adverse effects. This report supports the American Academy of Pediatrics clinical report Overuse Injuries, Overtraining, and Burnout in Child and Adolescent Athletes. This paper reviews the epidemiology of youth sport concerns and offers these guidelines for paediatricians.
    • The primary focus of sports for young athletes should be to have fun and learn lifelong physical activity skills.
    • Participating in multiple sports, at least until puberty, decreases the risk of injuries, stress, and burnout in young athletes.
    • For most sports, specializing in a sport later (ie, late adolescence) may lead to a higher chance of the young athlete accomplishing his or her athletic goals.
    • Early diversification and later specialisation provides for a greater chance of lifetime sports involvement, lifetime physical fitness, and possibly the progression into elite participation.
    • If a young athlete has decided to specialise in a single sport, discussing his or her goals to determine whether they are appropriate and realistic is important. This discussion may involve helping the young athlete distinguish these goals from those of the parents and/or coaches.
    • It is important for parents to closely monitor the training and coaching environment of ‘elite’ youth sports programs and be aware of best practices for their children’s sports.
    • Having at least a total of 3 months off-time throughout the year, in increments of 1 month, from their particular sport of interest will allow for athletes’ physical and psychological recovery. Young athletes can still remain active in other activities to meet physical activity and fitness guidelines during the time-off.
    • Young athletes having at least 1 to 2 days off per week from their particular sport of interest can decrease the chance of injury and promote recovery.
    • Closely monitoring young athletes who pursue intensive training for physical and psychological growth and maturation as well as nutritional status is an important parameter for health and wellbeing.
  • What does the science say about athletic development in children? (PDF  - 611 KB), Project Play, U.S. Sport Policy and Research Collaborative (2013). This paper summarises the review of relevant and important literature on the topic of developing children as athletes. The paper addresses five prevailing questions regarding early specialisation and the role of practice and play in the development of skill acquisition and expertise in sports. The discussion draws upon over 50 published research papers, reviews, and book chapters.

More information can be found in the Clearinghouse for Sport topics, Physical Literacy and Sport, and Athlete Pathways and Development.

There is no doubt the sporting preferences of Australians are changing. New sports are emerging, sometimes evolving from existing sources – for example, 3 x 3 basketball is now played in over 200 countries and sanctioned by international and national basketball federations. New sports also evolve from recreational pursuits or social sports – for example, competitive rock (wall) climbing has been included as an Olympic sport and will debut in Tokyo 2020.

  • Action sports for youth development: critical insights for the SDP community, Thorpe H, International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, published online 4 June 2014. This article identifies new trends in youth sport participation, particularly the growing popularity of non-competitive, informal, non-institutionalised ‘action sports’ (e.g., skateboarding, moto-cross, kite-surfing, snowboarding). A number of international examples and qualitative research, including interviews and media analysis, are cited.

More information can be found in the Clearinghouse for Sport topics, What is Sport?, Social Sport, Modified Sports, and The Future of Australia Sport.

As new sports gain in popularity they will develop their own national and international governing organisations and look at ways of broadening their appeal, attracting greater participation, and managing a competition structure. An example of this process is the emerging sport of ‘Sport Stacking’ (also known as cup stacking or speed stacking) [source: Sport Stacking, Wikipedia] that involves stacking specialised plastic cups in specific sequences in as little time as possible. This sport was introduced in the early 1990’s and an international federation was formed in 2001. The sport now has rules, records, and sanctioned competition. An Australian organisation has formed to govern and promote ‘sport stacking’ in this country. Although this sport may not currently be recognised as a ‘sport’ by government departments or agencies, it may only be a matter of time.


United Kingdom

  • The Framework for Sport in England, making England an active and successful sporting nation: A vision for 2020 (PDF - 3.0 MB), Sport England (2004). This framework for sport is seen more as a process than a product. Sport England’s commitment is to refine and review priorities on a regular basis. This is a whole of sport document.
  • Bridging The Gap: Research to provide insight into the development and retention of young athletes, prepared by Simon Shibli and David Barrett, Sport Industry Research Centre for England Athletics. The focus of this research was specifically on identifying the performance, progression, retention in the sport, and drop out from the sport by young talented athletes. It aimed to provide greater insight and understanding into one of the key performance and development challenges faced by athletics: how do we retain young athletes in the sport but develop and condition them to ensure the best opportunity to succeed as seniors?  Some key findings were: 
    • Athletes do not achieve their peak performance until well into adulthood.  On average this is around 26 for men and 25 for women.
    • Previous research into young elite athletes in the UK reveals that over a ten year period 41% were no longer involved with athletics.
    • In terms of athlete progression a study of 560 top 20 Under 15 athletes revealed that 10 years later 7% were still ranked in the top 20 for any event.

United States

  • National Standards for Youth Sports (PDF - 753 KB), National Alliance for Youth Sports (2008). The purpose of these Standards is to provide a framework by which youth sports programs are designed and executed. Historically, many youth sports programs have been modelled after programs for more senior athletes. The National Alliance for Youth Sports advocates for contemporary programs (across all sports) to be designed and administered so that every child, regardless of their abilities, has an opportunity to positively benefit from sport participation.
  • Changing the Game in Youth Sports Project. The mission of the Changing the Game Project is to ensure that youth sports in the United States becomes more child centred. Because parents and other adults are so influential, this project provides the information and resources they need to make sports a healthy, positive, and rewarding experience for their children, and their whole family. Parenting and coaching young athletes is an art, not a science, and the information provided can help adults make better decisions.

Where possible, direct links to full-text and online resources are provided. However, where links are not available, you may be able to access documents directly by searching our licenced full-text databases (note: user access restrictions apply). Alternatively, you can ask your institutional, university, or local library for assistance—or purchase documents directly from the publisher. You may also find the information you’re seeking by searching Google Scholar.


  • Cyber bullying an issue for sport (PDF  - 97 KB), McLean S, Sports Coach, Volume 30, Number 4 (2009). Cyber bullying is becoming a significant threat to the safety and wellbeing of a whole generation of young people. As a result, children are most likely to be exposed to negative uses of technology, examples of which are email harassment, stalking and ‘sexting’ (sending of explicit images and text, usually by mobile phone).
  • Cyberbullying of childrenAustralian Policy Online, (March 2016). The Internet, mobile phones, and other technological innovations have become entrenched in Australian life. These technologies create far-reaching benefits for youth. Nevertheless, these technologies have also introduced a tranche of online bullying behaviours known as cyberbullying, adding to the longstanding challenges associated with traditional school bullying. Cyberbullying has been an identified issue since at least the early 2000s; however, the issue has gained greater attention as more Australian children use social media and communication technologies more frequently.
  • Equal Opportunity in Sport: what you need to know about holding single-sex competitionsVictorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission, (July 2012). While equal opportunity law, like sport, is about promoting opportunity and participation, there are times when the law allows participation to be restricted to one sex to help ensure everyone has a fair go. The Equal Opportunity Act does this in a number of ways – through special measures, exceptions and temporary exemptions.
  • Game of Life: how sport and recreation can help make us healthier, happier & richer(PDF  - 4.2 MB), Cox S, Sport and Recreation Alliance, United Kingdom (2012). “Sport and recreation are good for you”, this statement instinctively seems right, but where is the supporting evidence? The Game of Life is a document that brings together current evidence from the United Kingdom to support the underlying belief that participation in sport and recreation can benefit society and individuals.
  • How to Prevent Sports Injuries in Child and Teen Athletes, Rider University, (accessed 21 January 2020). In general, injury prevention isn’t at the top of a kid’s list when they sign up for a sport. Adolescent athletes typically don’t think a lot about the possibility of getting hurt during practice or a game. It’s up to parents, coaches, and team leaders to help child athletes stay safe by teaching them to take the proper precautions. This minimizes preventable injuries, meaning the child can continue participating in and enjoying sports.
  • Images of Children, Play By The Rules, (June 2016). 
  • Images of children and young people online, Australian Institute of Family Studies: Child Family Community Australia, (April 2015). The internet has become a popular communication tool for children and young people, as well as adults, businesses and organisations. There are a range of reasons why people or organisations might wish to publish images of people online, including for recording, documenting and advertising or for promoting an organisation's activities and experiences.
  • Overuse Injuries and Burnout in Youth Sports: A Position Statement from the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (PDF  - 240 KB), DiFiori J, Benjamin H, Brenner J, Gregory A, Jayanthi N, Landry G and Luke A, Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, Volume 24 (2014). This position statement provides a systematic, evidenced-based review to assist clinicians in identifying young athletes at risk of overuse injury. The statement also delineates the risk factors that are associated with skeletal immaturity; describes specific high-risk overuse injuries; summarises the risk factors and the symptoms associated with burnout in young athletes, and; provides recommendations on injury prevention.

The WA Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries provides a variety of resources aimed at encouraging regular participation in physical activity and sport by juniors and youth. These resources include: 

  • Getting Young People Involved - Junior Sport Policy (PDF  - 1.5 MB), Government of Western Australia, Department of Sport and Recreation, Clubs Online Booklet 20 (2011). Inclusive practices should be an objective of all sport providers; however, marginalisation still occurs on the basis of ability, body shape, disability, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, geographical location, and socio-economic status. It is important to recognise these issues in order to meet the challenges of overcoming them.
  • Long Term Involvement - Junior Sport Policy (PDF  - 1.5 MB), Government of Western Australia, Department of Sport and Recreation, Clubs Online Booklet 19 (2011). This booklet discusses why young people participate in sport and offers strategies for their ongoing involvement.
  • Youth Sport - Good practice guide (PDF  - 1.5 MB), Government of Western Australia, Department of Sport and Recreation, Clubs Online Booklet 18 (2011). To ensure sport is attractive to young people, organisations delivering youth sport must fully understand why young people either participate or drop out. This resource provides some simple guidelines for making sport programs more youth friendly.
  • Passport into Schools - Linking sports with schools (PDF  - 1.4 MB), Government of Western Australia, Department of Sport and Recreation, Clubs Online Booklet 17 (2011). This guide is primarily for sport development officers and addresses the following key areas: Different school sport systems in WA; Physical education curriculum; Strategies for sports; Case studies; Passport checklist.
  • Physical Growth and Maturation - Junior Sport Policy (PDF  - 1.4 MB), Government of Western Australia, Department of Sport and Recreation, Clubs Online Booklet 21 (2011). Sport is an ideal way to provide the recommended level of physical activity needed for normal growth and development for young people. For the best physical and skill development to occur, consideration must be given to factors related to growth and maturation and decisions based upon readiness; progressions in training and competition; and specialisation.
  • People Making it Happens - Junior Sport Policy (PDF  - 1.5 MB), Government of Western Australia, Department of Sport and Recreation, Clubs Online Booklet 24 (2011). The most important resource in junior sport is the people who provide the capacity for organisations to deliver programs and activities and create a positive culture around sport.
  • Top 20 Tips for Officials - Junior Sport Policy (PDF  - 1.3 MB), Government of Western Australia, Department of Sport and Recreation, Clubs Online Booklet 24 (2011). Recruiting, training and retaining officials at clubs requires a professional approach. Here are 20 basic ‘tips for officials’ your club can use to get them started. The tips provide some helpful guidelines for new and existing officials. Good officiating, playing and coaching ensures everyone enjoys the experience!
  • Sport Pathways - Junior Sport Policy (PDF  - 1.5 MB), Government of Western Australia, Department of Sport and Recreation, Clubs Online Booklet 22 (2011). This booklet discusses the stages in sport progression and key areas for planning a progressive pathway of athlete development.
  • The Law and Sport - Junior Sport Policy (PDF  - 1.4 MB), Government of Western Australia, Department of Sport and Recreation, Clubs Online Booklet 27 (2011). This guideline focuses on the legislation that exists to ensure the safety, health and welfare of young people who participate in junior sport.


  • Childhood Sports Participation and Adolescent Sport Profile, François Gallant, Jennifer L. O’Loughlin, Jennifer Brunet, et.al., Pediatrics, Volume 140(6), (December 2017). This study demonstrates that children who specialize in a sport may increase the risk of sport nonparticipation in adolescence. It also highlights that children who do not participate in sports are unlikely to participate in adolescence. In line with current clinical recommendations and supported by these results, the authors recommend that to encourage long-term physical activity participation it is necessary to encourage children to participate in a variety of sports early on.
  • Epidemiology of overuse injuries among high-school athletes in the United States, Schroeder A, Comstock R, Collins C, Everhart J, Flanigan D and Best T, The Journal of Pediatrics, Volume 166, Issue 3 (2015). This descriptive epidemiologic study looked at High school athlete injuries. Data was collected from a large national sample of US high schools participating in the High School Reporting Information Online study from 2006 to 2012. Reporting of information online was done by certified athletic trainers. Of the 20 sports studied, overuse injuries were more likely to occur in practice sessions than competition in all sports except boys' baseball and ice hockey. Overall, the proportion of overuse injuries were evenly distributed across athletes' year in school (freshman 25.6%; sophomore 25.3%; junior 24.9%, and; senior 24.3%). However, there were distinct patterns by sex; in boys, the proportion of overuse injuries increased from 20.7% (freshman) to 28.5% (senior), and in girls the proportion decreased with athletes' year in school from 30.7% (freshman) to 19.8% (senior). Although patterns of overuse injury varied by sport, the most commonly injured body sites overall included lower leg (area between the knee and the ankle), knee, and shoulder. One-half all overuse injuries resulted in a time loss from training and competition of less than one 1 week, with few injuries causing the athlete to miss more than three weeks or resulting in medical disqualification for the season. An important finding of this study was that girls not only have greater overuse injury rates than boys, but a greater proportion of their overuse injuries occurred earlier in their high school careers as compared with boys. Overuse injuries make up a large proportion of all injuries in athletes participating in sports requiring repetitive movements and the body sites affected with overuse injuries were sport specific. Identifying high school athletes at risk of overuse injuries is a recommended first step in injury prevention strategies.
  • Participant development in sport: An academic review (PDF  - 1.4 MB), Bailey R, Collins D, Ford P, MacNamara A, Toms M and Pearce G, Sports Coach UK and Sport Northern Ireland (2010). Participant development involves the activities experienced, the pathways followed, and the motivations or obstacles that impact upon one’s physical activity choices or sporting career. This review seeks to identify the main findings and the underlying principles associated with participant development.
  • Participation-performance tension and gender affect recreational sports clubs’ engagement with children and young people with diverse backgrounds and abilities, Spaaij R, Lusher D, Jeanes R, Farquharson K, Gorman S, Magee J, PLoS ONE, 14(4): e0214537, (2019). This mixed methods study investigated how diversity is understood, experienced and managed in junior sport. The study combined in-depth interviews (n = 101), surveys (n = 450) and observations over a three-year period. The results revealed that a focus on performance and competitiveness negatively affected junior sports clubs’ commitment to diversity and inclusive participation. Gender and a range of attitudes about diversity were also strongly related. On average, we found that those who identified as men were more likely to support a pro-performance stance, be homophobic, endorse stricter gender roles, and endorse violence as a natural masculine trait. In addition, those who identified as men were less likely to hold pro-disability attitudes. These findings suggest that the participation-performance tension and gender affect to what extent, and how, sports clubs engage children and young people with diverse backgrounds and abilities.
  • Policy, politics and path dependency: Sport development in Australia and Finland (PDF - 260 KB), Green M and Collins S, Sport Management Review, Volume 11 (2008). This article reviews the national sport development policies, from mass-participation to elite, in Australia and Finland; two countries with quite distinct political, cultural, and sporting backgrounds. The authors suggest that Australia has centred policy around ‘elite sport’ and Finland around ‘sport for all’ and each country has remained on quite specific sport development pathways with little deviation, despite a few programs being created in Australia to increase the levels of sport participation for targeted groups such as women and indigenous Australians.
  • Predictability of physiological testing and the role of maturation in talent identification for adolescent team sports (PDF  - 139 KB), Pearson D, Naughton G and Torode M, Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, Volume 9 (2006). Maturation is a major confounding variable in talent identification during adolescence, as significant changes during puberty make the prediction of adult performance difficult from adolescent data. The authors conclude that there is limited success in scientifically based talent identification in a range of team sports.
  • Should toddlers and preschoolers participate in organized sport? A scoping review of developmental outcomes associated with young children’s sport participation, Meghan Harlow, Lauren Wolman & Jessica Fraser-Thomas, International Review of Sport & Exercise Psychology, (December 2018). The authors completed a scoping review of nine electronic databases to identify English-language, peer-reviewed, original research articles which addressed psychological, emotional, social, cognitive, or intellectual developmental outcomes of organized sport involvement of children aged 2–5 years. The findings offer some preliminary evidence that early sport participation is related to primarily positive outcomes (e.g. enhanced social skills, pro-social behaviours, self-regulation) but negative and inconclusive outcomes were also identified. Results suggest limited existing research has primarily relied on parent or teacher proxy-report or assessment, and reinforces that little is known about toddler and preschooler organized sport participation as a distinct form of physical activity, despite pervasive availability of programming, and positive parental perceptions of early enrollment. They recommend additional research with stronger methodological design and rigor is needed.
  • Socioeconomic status and sport participation at different developmental stages during childhood and youth: multivariate analysis using Canadian National Survey data (PDF  - 242 KB), White P and McTeer W, Sociology of Sport Journal, Volume 29 (2012). This study examines the relationship between socioeconomic status (SES) and sport and physical activity involvement at different stages of childhood and adolescence in Canada. The results showed that SES was a significant predictor of sport involvement among 6–9 year-olds, but not for 10–15 year-olds. In the younger group higher family SES was associated with organised sport involvement more than informal involvement. Higher family income and parental education were found to be strongest predictors (compared to other social factors) for sport participation among young children. Canadian children between the ages of 6 and 9 who come from low SES backgrounds are less likely to be involved in either organised or informal sport than their higher SES counterparts. These SES disparities are ameliorated over time, perhaps because of the evening-out effect of sport participation opportunities offered at school.  The school system offered more opportunities with fewer financial and cultural barriers to participation.
  • Talent identification and development programs in sport, Vaeyens R, Lenoir M, Williams M and Philippaerts R, Sports Medicine, Volume 38, Number 9 (2008). This article provides an overview of current knowledge in this area with special focus on problems associated with the identification of gifted adolescents. There is a growing agreement that traditional cross-sectional talent identification models are likely to exclude many, especially late maturing, ‘promising’ children from development programmes due to the dynamic and multidimensional nature of sport talent.
  • Teens and sport: what the research shows (PDF  - 262 KB), VicHealth, (2018). Research from VicHealth indicates that 92% of Victorian teenages (12-17 years old) do not meet the Australian physical activity guidelines (60 minutes of physical activity every day). The research also identifies some of the key barriers and motivators for sports participation in this age group. It suggests that sport can become too stressful and not fun during adolescence and, therefore, they are more likely to drop out. Recommends providing flexibility to meet different needs, which may include more social and less competitive options for re-engaging some teens. Teens talk sport, VicHealth/YouTube, (7 February 2018). 


  • Clarifying some misconceptions around Long-Term Player Development, Chiet A, Canadian Sport for Life, news (28 May 2012). The author clarifies the application of policies applied by the Ontario Soccer Association, including the decision not to keep score at junior competitions or to keep a league table.
  • Culture of competition discourages some kids from sportVictoria University media release, (6 May 2019). A study of Aussie sports clubs finds that a culture of competitiveness is preventing kids from diverse backgrounds and abilities from participating in junior sport. The research also showed that many clubs were uncertain about the concept and how it related to them, or how to actively promote diversity and social inclusion. Some other key findings included: Diversity was often viewed as diverting resources from a club’s core business, which revolved around organising teams and improving playing skills; Clubs that actively promoted diversity were generally regarded by coaches and parents from outside clubs as not serious clubs, and suitable only for children who were ‘no good’ at sport; Men at clubs that focused on competition above participation were, on average, more likely to be homophobic, endorse stricter gender roles, enforce violence as a natural masculine trait, and were less likely to hold pro-disability attitudes.
  • Growth and Development of Young Athletes: should competition levels be age related? Baxter-Jones A, Sports Medicine, Volume 20, Number 2 (1995). Two major concerns arise from the use of age related competition; the possible decrease in the long-term motivation for sports participation, and the use of performance results to identify talent. 
  • Let the children play – Norway’s golden approach reminds us of what matters in sport, Joy Poon & Samantha Yom, Red Sports, (23 May 2018). Provides an overview contrasting the junior athlete pathways in Norway and Singapore. Emphasises Norway's success, particularly in Winter Olympic sports, and focus on broad non-competitive sport for juniors to Singapore's more competitive and early specialisation model.  
  • Long term development in Swimming (PDF  - 551 KB), Raleigh V, Swimming Australia (2011). The author uses the ‘long term athlete development’ model to support the view that elite athlete development is a long-term pathway.
  • Participation, personal development, and performance through youth sport (PDF  - 940 KB), Cote J, Strachan L and Fraser-Thomas J, Chapter 3 in 'Positive Youth Development Through Sport', Holt N (Editor), Routledge International Studies in Physical Education and Youth Sport series, London (2008).
  • Remove scoreboards from youth sports, group says, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, News (15 April 2013). Richard Way, the project lead for Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD) with Canadian Sport for Life, says keeping scores and standings for young children does nothing to build self-esteem and positive sportsmanship.
  • Sport readiness in children and youth (PDF  - 94 KB), Purcell L, Paediatric Child Health, Volume 10, Number 6 (2005). Sporting activities must be developmentally appropriate for the child. Enrolling children in sports that are beyond their developmental ability can lead to frustration and early dropout. Predicting sport readiness involves the evaluation of an individual’s cognitive, social and motor development relative to the demands of the sporting activity. Sporting activities can be modified to suit the developmental level of children.
  • Straight facts about making it in pro hockey (PDF  - 100 KB), Parcels J, Ontario Minor Hockey Association (1999). The author uses his experience as an ice hockey coach and administrator to state the case that it is unrealistic to think that players at a young age, who participate in advanced programs and make many family and lifestyle sacrifices, have any better chance of eventually making ice hockey a professional career than players who stayed at home, concentrated on a career outside hockey, and played the game for fun.
  • Talent identification and promotion programmes of Olympic athletes, Vaeyens R, Gullich A, Warr C, and Philippaerts R, Journal of Sports Science, Volume 27, Number 13 (2009). The authors believe that forecasting Olympic success years in advance remains problematic. In this article, they discuss issues related to the identification and preparation of Olympic athletes. They suggest that earlier onset of rigorous training and competition, during childhood or adolescence may not be associated with greater success in senior international elite sport. 


  • Australian Sport – better by design: the evolution of Australian sports policy, Stewart B, Routledge, London (2004). The book focuses on sport policy, and examines the ways in which government has impacted on the development of Australian sport. The text identifies the political, economic and cultural context in which policies were set, and examines critical policy shifts. The book also provides a strong theoretical foundation by discussing the underlying principles of policy formulation and the rationale for government intervention in national sport. It includes a number of sport policy case studies. (held by the Clearinghouse for Sport, GV675.S74)
  • Coaching children : sports science essentials, Kelly Sumich, ACER Press, (2013). Coaching Children: sports science essentials is the first book in Australia specifically aimed at helping community coaches and fitness professionals design safe and effective training programs for children. It provides guidance for enhancing children's engagement in sport, developing their motor skills and managing performance anxiety. It provides straight-forward research-based advice on nutrition and explains in clear terms how to tailor exercise to address children's social, physical and psychological needs.
  • Conditions of children's talent development in sport, Jean Cote, Ronnie Lidor [editors], Fitness Information Technology, (2013). a comprehensive study of sport's impact on childhood skill acquisition. The book takes multiple factors into account, including activities in which children participate during their development, and personal and social variables that affect their growth. Authorities in the fields of sport psychology and motor development and learning share their insights in each chapter, guaranteeing a comprehensive exploration of children's talent development through sport. The book is structured around the fourth stage of talent development research, which takes into account not only practice activities, but also the importance of play and the sampling of various sports throughout childhood. This stage considers psychosocial influences as well as training aspects. Chapters cover a variety of topics, such as implicit motor learning, self-efficacy, perfectionism's impact on emerging talent in youth, and the influence of coaches, peers, and family members. (held by the Clearinghouse for Sport, GV709.2)
  • Inclusion and exclusion through youth sport, Routledge, (2012). Separated into two sections Understanding exclusion and Moving towards inclusion. (held by the Clearinghouse for Sport, GV709.2.I53)
  • Routledge handbook of youth sport, Ken Green and Andy Smith [eds.], Routledge, (2016). The book covers youth sport in all its forms, from competitive game-contests and conventional sport to recreational activities, exercise and lifestyle sport, and at all levels, from elite competition to leisure time activities and school physical education. It explores youth sport across the world, in developing and developed countries, and touches on some of the most significant themes and issues in contemporary sport studies, including physical activity and health, lifelong participation, talent identification and development, and safeguarding and abuse. (held by the Clearinghouse for Sport, GV709.2.R66 2016)

Clearinghouse Videos

Other Videos

  • Changing the Game in Youth Sports, O’Sullivan J, TEDx lecture, YouTube (20 June 2014). After  nearly three decades as a soccer player and coach, John O'Sullivan began working to reshape youth sports and inspire a major shift in culture; he founded the Changing the Game Project.
  • Junior SportDavid Simpson, Australian Sports Commission, National Participation Workshop, Australian Sports Commission (May 2012) - The junior sport framework is the Australian Sport Commissions key position statement for junior sport and has been used by numerous National Sporting Organisations in the development of their junior sport policies.
  • Junior Sport Case StudyMarcus Leslie, Gymnastics Australia, National Participation Workshop, Australian Sports Commission (May 2012) - Introducing ‘Launchpad’; Gymnastics Australia’s new fundamental movement initiative.
  • Junior Sport Case Study, Martin Garoni, Cricket ACT, National Participation Workshop, Australian Sports Commission (May 2012) - Cricket ACT have been responsible for delivering a number of national junior cricket programs into the local market and discuss their activities, the challenges and the benefits.
  • Sport and Recreation Junior Sport Update, Liz Yuen, Sport and Recreation ACT, National Participation Workshop, Australian Sports Commission (May 2012) - Liz Yuen discusses the support that Sport and Recreation ACT can offer to sports working in junior sport or school sport.

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