Impact of Sports on Youth Development: Positive and Negative Outcomes

Publication Date



The present review examines the body of literature in hopes of better understanding the impact of sports participation during youth (childhood, adolescence, and emerging adulthood) on a myriad of developmental outcomes. Some of the positive outcomes of athletic involvement during youth include: increased academic performance, psychological and social benefits, decreased illicit drug use, and specific benefits for female athletes. Some of the negative outcomes include: increased alcohol use, higher rates of anti-social/aggressive behavior (especially among contact sports), and an elevated risk of concussions or other serious injury. The current research suggests pursuing a developmental approach to athletic involvement during youth moving from diversification early on in childhood to greater specialization as one moves into adolescence and emerging adulthood. The inclusion of both team and individual sports as well as other extracurricular activities can lead to the most positive outcomes. Research has also shown the role of the coach to be an important factor in determining the nature of outcomes among young athletes. The findings gathered are summarized to inform future development and application of youth sports programs and to provide practical suggestions for interested parents, teachers, and coaches alike. Future research is needed to delineate the long-term benefits/detriments of athletic involvement during youth. Long-term longitudinal studies illustrating the impact of early sports participation on outcomes into adulthood have been largely absent in the current literature and will be central to future intervention efforts.

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology (PsyD)

First Advisor

Schnitker, Sarah A.

Document Type





Sports for children, Teenage athletes, High school athletes, Junior high school athletes, Middle school athletes




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