Objectives: The purpose of this study is to gain understanding of training patterns and roles of significant others (i.e. coaches, parents, peers, and siblings) in adolescent swimmers’ sport participation patterns. Design: The developmental model of sport participation [Côté, J., Baker, J., & Abernethy, B. (2003). From play to practice: A developmental framework for the acquisition of expertise in team sport. In J. Starkes, & K. A. Ericsson (Eds.), Recent advances in research on sport expertise (pp. 89–114). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics; Côté, J., & Fraser-Thomas, J. (2007). Youth involvement in sport. In P. R. E. Crocker (Ed.), Introduction to sport psychology: A Canadian perspective (pp. 266–294). Toronto: Pearson Prentice Hall] was used as a framework.
Method: Ten dropout and 10 engaged swimmers, matched on key demographic variables participated in a semi-structured qualitative interview.
Results: Groups had many similar experiences (e.g. early training, supportive and unsupportive coaches, involved parents). However, only dropouts spoke of early peak performances, limited one-on-one coaching, pressuring parents during adolescence, lack of swimming peers during adolescence, and sibling rivalries. In contrast, only engaged athletes spoke of clubs’ developmental philosophies, coaches’ and parents’ open communication, school friends’ support, and siblings’ general positive influences.
Conclusions: Findings highlight the importance of appropriately structured programs and the fragility of athletes’ relationships with significant others during the adolescent years. Implications for sport programmers, coaches, and parents are discussed.