Nowadays the population and the governmental authorities are more conscious of the potential of sport in influencing the society and youth athlete development, not only in what concerns to physical aspects but also in psychological and social domains. However, the sport practice per se isn’t, necessarily, a positive factor of influences in youth positive development, and in some circumstances it might even lead to negative behaviours and anti-social values. The present study is a result of the concern about the youth athlete development and is supported on the ecological theory of Bronfenbrenner (1999), which has been used to study the developmental process of youth athletes due to the adequacy to analyse the different sources of influences (Araujo et al., 2009; Santos, Domingues, & Goncalves, 2011).
The ecological theory gives importance to individual and contextual characteristics for the human development through the model person-process-context-time (PPCT). The person is shaped by his personal characteristics, which influence his perception, experience and lives from the context where his inserted. The process reflects the connections between levels and is constituted by roles and daily activities that have a regular character and occur during a long period of time. Nonetheless, the process occurs according to the individual dispositions (interfere, retard, avoid) leading to disruptive or generator situations of development. The context is referent to the global environment where the individual is included and the processes occur. This is subdivided according to the proximity and potentiality degree to influence the individual, like the “Russian dolls”, in the following way: a) Microsystem – includes the activities, roles, interpersonal relations on the local, where the individual is in, such as sport, where the relationships between peers, coaches, directors and others are observed; b) Mesosystem – is referent to the interaction between two or more contexts in which the individual has an active role (e.g., club; school; family); c) Exosystem – is relative to contexts that the individual isn’t in but whose events affects or are affected by others contexts (e.g., professional situation changes could affect the capability to pay sport practice and equipment); d) Macrosystem – is intended has a group of social factors that are inserted in the other systems, such as sociocultural values and beliefs (e.g., society vision about sport financial support and services delivery). The time or cronosystem, that could be understood as a historical sense, an event patterns in life course that have effects through over time and, principally, by critical events or periods that are capable of profound effects on individual (e.g., parent divorce) or societies (e.g., war, bankruptcy).
The incorporation of more specialized and professional personnel in sport organizations as well as the visibility, competitiveness and financial augment of the sport context, lead to changes in the way sport is experienced. But, these changes might be risky for the athletes’ positive development. Thus, Fraser-Thomas, Cote & Deakin (2005) proposed an sport program model for youth athletes positive development, based on the development assets theory (Benson, 2002), which is founded in the Bronfenbrenner theory and in the positive youth development (PYD) perspective. The assets are considered as the human development “building blocks” through risk behaviours prevention (school dropout, drugs use, violence), prosperous results reinforce (school success, diversity affirmation, pro-active approach to nutrition and physical exercise) and resilience factors. The development assets are divided in two dimensions, internal (concerning to individual commitment, values and competencies) and external (referent to environmental characteristics for health promotion). The latter includes the support (opportunities to experience affirmation, acceptance and approval), empowerment (youth as actors, organizers of community activities), boundaries and expectations (clarity of message and rules between contexts where the youngster is inserted, and that modulate the behaviours) and constructive use of time (group of constructive opportunities). While the internal dimension aggregates the learning commitment (set of personal beliefs, values and academic success abilities), positive values (pro-social and personal character), social competencies (ability for challenges and choices of opportunities presented by society) and positive identity (perception about the future, self-esteem, belonging and power sense). Sport programs that use the PYD model note the increasing pro-social behaviours and attitudes, self-esteem, confidence and school interest (Sandford, Duncombe, & Armour, 2008), empowerment (Sibthorp & Morgan, 2011) and prevention of precocious pregnancy (Gallagher, Stanley, Shearer, & Mosca, 2005). Strachan, Cote and
Deakin (2009) observed that three particular assets (positive identity, empowerment and support) are important to reduce burnout symptoms and enhance enjoyment. The latest is a positive factor for sport adhesion and maintenance (Guillet et al., 2002), being an important factor for the involvement in sport context during long periods of time, allowing the assets development. Independently of the different existent definitions, the enjoyment is associated to positive feelings (Kimiecik & Harris, 1996). Based on the ecological theory and the enjoyment definition of Scanlan, Carpenter, Lobel & Simons (1993), Wiersma (2001) developed the Sources of Enjoyment in Youth Sport Questionnaire (SEYSQ), which present six factors in the original version: 1) Sel-referenced competencies (SRC) (mastery and achievement perceptions derive from reaching personal performance goals); 2) Other referenced competencies and Recognition (ORCR) (social recognition by sport results and positive social consideration); 3) Competitive Excitement (sensations and tension resulting from physical activity); 4) Effort Expenditure (EE) (commitment and work in practice feelings); 5) Affiliation with Peers (PE) (positive social relationships with colleagues) and 6) Positive Parental Involvement (PPI).
Former studies verified that enjoyment is positively correlated with group cohesion (Turman, 2008), self-esteem (Shaffer & Wittes, 2006) and self-competence perceptions (Fairclough, 2003) and negatively with negative factors of sport practice, such as, dropout (Molinero, Salguero, Tuero, Alvarez, & Marquez, 2006), burnout (Schmidt & Stein, 1991) and anxiety (Grossbard, Sbmith, Smoll, & Cumming, 2009). However, the age and the gender could influence the sources of enjoyment in sport (Strachan, Cote, & Deakin, 2009).
The role of sport in the educational context is important, but if the sport program isn’t appropriate for the athletes, this may lead to negative outcomes, reflected in the low levels of development assets and enjoyment in sport. Also, the emphasis given to performance could lead to adoption of anti-social values and attitudes, resulting in negative consequences of involvement in sport practice. The sport context has an absence of intrinsic moral meaning, so this is given by the people and the environment. The type of sport (e.g., individual or collective, the physical contact level), the practice and competition quality and style, lead to different experiences in sport, due to the relationship established by the athlete with other persons and the surrounding environment. Lee (1996) developed the Sport Attitudes Questionnaire (SAQ) to measure the athletes sport attitudes, which is composed by factors (commitement, convention, unsportsmanship, cheating). The concern about sport attitudes is because these reflects a code of values that may be tranfered to the daily life experience, and these are expected to be pro-social and positive, promoting successful and healthy adults.
Since the sport has potential for promoting the individual and community development and, the results from sport involvement are influenced by the athlete and contextual characteristics, the present study pretends to verify the development assets, the sources of enjoyment and attitudes in sport, and observe the differences between gender and age level of school sport athletes.
The study sample was composed by school sport athletes from the Central Region of Portugal. This included 325 subjects in first moment, reduced to 96 (Males 49; Females 47) that answer both moments of measurement, with ages between 12 and 18 years (M=13.87, SD=2.1). Different sport modalities were represented, such as, Handball, Volleyball, Basketball, Futsal, Soccer, Gymnastic, Badminton, Swimming and Tennis. On average, the athletes are involved in sport practice 5 years (M=4.80, SD=3.3).
Development Assets Profile (DAP)
This measure was developed by Search Institute (2004) and is composed by 58 items which are preceded by an introduction. Statements in the DAP are rated from “not at all”, “rarely”, “extremely” or “almost always”. In the Portuguese version obtained by Santos and Goncalves (2012) measure external and internal factor from a personal perspective, such as, the support (4 items), boundaries and expectations (5 items), commitment to learning (4 items), positive values (3 items), positive identity (5 items). The Portuguese version present good reliability estimates (e.g., .69 to .82 for the referred categories).
Sources of Enjoyment in Youth Sport Questionnaire (SEYSQ)
This instrument was developed by Wiersma (2001) and translated and validated to Portuguese version by Santos and Goncalves (2012). This has an introduction and is composed by 28 items responded in a five point Likert scale (1=not at all, 2=a little, 3=not sure, 4=yes and 5=very much), that measure, in the Portuguese version, the positive parental involvement (4 items), self-referenced competencies (4 items), other-referenced competencies and recognition (5 items), effort expenditure (3 items), affiliation with peers (4 items). In this version the SEYSQ subscales revealed good Cronbach alpha coefficients from .78 to .85.
Sport Attitudes Questionnaire (SAQ-2)
The SAQ is an instrument with 23 items, based in a five point Likert scale (1=totally disagree to 5= totally agree), that measure cheating, unsportsmanship, commitment and convention. The Portuguese version was obtained by Goncalves et al. (2006) revealing a good Cronbach alpha for reliability from .67 to .90.
This study was approved by the respective ethical committee and the Education Ministry entities. The school sport trainers/teachers were contacted and it was request the parental authorization to participate in this study. The questionnaires were fulfilled during the practice period.