The relative importance of training volume and coach autonomy support for preventing youth swimming attrition

Heather K. Larson, Bradley W. Young, Tara-Leigh F. McHugh, Wendy M. Rodgers


There are hypothesized associations between high training volume in youth sport and negative psychological and behavioral outcomes such as decreased enjoyment, and increased burnout and dropout. Autonomy support, however, is associated with positive motivational and behavioral outcomes. The purpose of this study was to concurrently explore the relationships of training volume and perceived coach autonomy support with enjoyment, commitment, burnout symptoms, and dropout from swimming. Survey data were collected from 265 swimmers (Mage = 13.78 ± 1.60) representing more than 50 clubs across Canada. Their parents provided training volume data. Several months later, at the start of the next swimming season, a follow-up survey identified which swimmers dropped out. Structural equation modeling did not show a significant relationship between training volume and enjoyment, but there was a significant pathway from autonomy support to enjoyment, which predominantly predicted functional commitment. Obligatory and functional commitment differentially predicted burnout and intentions to continue swimming. Swimmers who dropped out had significantly lower training volume, enjoyment, functional commitment, and intentions to continue swimming, and higher sport devaluation, compared to those who continued swimming in the following season. Perceptions of an enjoyable, autonomy-supportive training context in adolescent swimming seem to have greater associations than training volume with several psychological and behavioral outcomes, including burnout symptoms and dropout.


autonomy support; burnout; developmental model of sport participation; dropout; enjoyment; self-determination theory; sport commitment model; training volume

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