The experiences of adolescents rowing in New Zealand: an insight into the influences on attrition in school rowing
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It is widely acknowledged that involvement in sport has positive physical and psychosocial benefits for adolescents. However, concerns have been expressed, both in New Zealand and internationally, about the relatively high attrition rates from sport participation for this age group. Although reasons for adolescent attrition rates in sport have been widely investigated, there is little evidence of studies that have examined reasons for drop-out in the sport of rowing. This study explores the experiences of adolescent athletes who have dropped out of high school rowing programmes in New Zealand. Rowing in New Zealand is a popular sport, yet it has shown to have comparatively high rates of drop-out, particularly from 16 years of age. It appears that there is limited research on attrition in rowing and to date there are no published studies that have used a qualitative research approach to investigate the reasons for the relatively high drop-out rates in rowing in New Zealand. This qualitative interpretive study adopts a self-determination theoretical framework to examine reasons for adolescents’ drop-out from school rowing. The participants were four males and three females aged between 16-18 years old, from seven different high schools. Each participant had rowed for two or three seasons and had dropped out before their final school rowing season. The study data was gathered through semi-structured interviews. Three main themes emerged from the data: the reasons why these participants rowed, the influence of the coach, and issues related to lightweight rowing. Having a sense of relatedness, through feeling connected to teammates, coaches and parents were deemed to be especially important to the participants. Perceptions of competence were influenced through crew selection processes and the rowing environment. Feelings of autonomy were enhanced when participants had input into their training and crews but feelings of autonomy were often undermined through actions of the coach. The main findings of the study suggest that having a sense of relatedness is probably the most important factor influencing ongoing participation in rowing. The results from this study provide an evidence-base which can be used to inform coach education and the development of rowing programmes for adolescent athletes.