Examining the Outcomes of Sport Specialization for Individual Athletes and the Industry





Sport specialization for young athletes has become a prerequisite for sport achievement, but academics have yet to explore the effects that sport specialization has on athletes’ participation patterns. Thus, this project explores the following research question: what are the effects of sport specialization on the individual volleyball athlete in terms of: i) patterns of participation in sport; and ii) consumption patterns in the sport industry? The methodological approach was to interview current and retired volleyball players aged 18 to 30 in Calgary, Alberta. The findings indicate that specialization in volleyball directly impacts an athlete’s patterns of participation in the sport of volleyball and the sport industry broadly. Participants indicated that their specialization years led to a specialized “mindset” and specialized knowledge, a unique analytical experience that influences sport participation and few individuals outside of the specialized athletic community acquire. Many participants also articulated that specialized training led to an identity as a “volleyball player” which was associated with a reduced desire to participate in other sports recreationally. Many participants explained how specialization affected their socialization (both positively and negatively) and led them to foster connections in a virtual community. The findings are a call to action for the volleyball industry to evaluate the participation patterns in specialized volleyball training and implement changes to benefit specialized athletes and the industry.

Keywords: sport specialization, participation, sport industry, volleyball