Bridging The Gap
Research to provide insight into the development and retention of young athletes was commissioned by England Athletics and carried out by Sheffield Hallam International Research Centre.
The findings were published in August 2011. This was a study that was initiated with providers, organisers and enablers of youth athletics in mind, and aimed at guiding and informing providers of youth athletics in reviewing practice, and we hope that reports such as this one will help to ensure that all our efforts are invested with the best long term interests of young athletes in mind.
The focus concentrates specifically on performance, progression, retention in the sport, and drop out from the sport by young talented athletes. We hope that the report will provide reassurance based on statistical fact, and a greater insight and understanding into one of the key performance and development challenges faced by our sport, namely; how do we retain young athletes in the sport but develop and condition them to ensure the best opportunity to succeed as seniors? Analysis of specific data identified the following key points:
- 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.
In order to move beyond the analysis, the researchers also interviewed current athletes, former athletes and current coaches to search for meanings such as why some people progress whilst others drop out. The interviews covered a wide range of issues concerning: their early experiences; their training and environment; their training commitment; and their support networks and systems.
This report helps to inform and refine our policies and practices. The report is by no means definitive and indeed, does what many research studies of this nature do; it poses more questions and potentially highlights the need for further research as we scrape beneath the surface of an age old topic that creates much debate and discussion up and down the land amongst competition providers, coaches, administrators, teachers and parents. We hope this report will stimulate constructive discussion and debate amongst those who are engaged in making decisions.
You can download the Bridging the Gap document by clicking here.