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FINNUT-Forskning og innovasjon i utdanningssektoren

Student athlete learning, psychosocial development, mental and physical health and well-being in secondary school sport classes

Alternative title: Idrettselevers læring, psykososiale utvikling, helse og velvære, og idrettsrelaterte helseproblemer i idrettsklasser på ungdomstrinnet

Awarded: NOK 8.0 mill.

Providing opportunities for students who have a special talent is a popular approach in education. In Norway, the most common example is the provision of sport. A new, specialised sector of Norwegian secondary schools now offers sport classes to young athletes and provides additional resources to develop sporting talents. The Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training have approved 23 specialised secondary schools, offering a total capacity of 4152 students. Whether (and how) sport classes actually contribute to better sport and academic achievements has also mostly been left unexamined. Understanding how the hybridisation of academic and sport learning impacts the socialisation processes of young people during the major transitions of early adolescence is a research area that needs to be prioritised. The few available studies on this subject indicate that efforts to ensure that athletes succeed in both sport and in academic schooling can be problematic. Addressing these difficult challenges is important because of the responsibility, institutionally, for ensuring that special sport classes offer young people sustainable career paths, and because of the pressures youth athletes face in achieving the same general educational qualifications as others. The main objective of this project is therefore to explore the socialisation processes of student athletes, aged 13-15 years, in Norway´s specialised secondary schools. Attention will be given to how involvement in secondary school sport classes influences athletes´ sport and academic learning, their motivation and psychosocial development, and their health and well-being. The secondary objective is to investigate the socio-demographics and other characteristics of those attending sport classes and whether certain groups are marginalised based on their social background, gender or ethnicity.

Context-specific research that focuses on student athlete learning, psychosocial development and health and wellbeing in sport classes in Norway is scarce. In this research project, we will follow a cohort of students 13-15 years from sports classes over a three-year period. The project will therefore provide a detailed insight into the socialisation processes of student athletes. The study is particularly relevant as research on young athletes in specialised sport schools experience stressors, such as less sleep time, and significant increases in training volumes may result in severe and long-lasting injuries, athlete burnout, and reduced motivation in sport and/or school. Pressures can be aggravated by the effects of insufficient recovery time and long-lasting chronic and acute injuries that lead to reduced learning opportunities, a loss of motivation, and feelings of burnout and loneliness. Addressing these difficult challenges is important because of the responsibility, institutionally, for ensuring that special sport classes offer young people sustainable career paths, and because of the pressures youth athletes face in achieving the same general educational qualifications as others. Young student athletes aged between 13-15 years deserve attention for additional reasons: the path to future success in sport is less clear than in other careers. The physical and emotional growth and maturation of athletes at this age are also rapid and unpredictable, and the psychosocial changes and identity development challenges they face therefore make them especially vulnerable. The study is a mixed-methods study consisting of five work packages intended to provide detailed interdisciplinary insights into student athlete learning, psychosocial development, mental and physical health and well-being. The study methods include participant observation, qualitative interviews, psychological and epidemiological questionnaires and survey data.

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FINNUT-Forskning og innovasjon i utdanningssektoren