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Kristi Erdal Publishes on the ‘Adulteration’ of Children’s Sports

Colorado College Professor of Psychology Kristi Erdal has published “The Adulteration of Children’s Sports,” a new book that explores current behavioral and physiological research about how children’s organized sport has changed in the past decades.

Erdal contends that adult introduction of early competition, extrinsic rewards, early sport specialization, and year-round participation has thwarted children’s intrinsic motivation and contributed to children’s attrition from sport.  Subtitled “Waning Health and Well-Being in the Age of Organized Play,” the book looks at how adults’ goals and needs are at the heart of the changes, and what the consequences are on children’s enjoyment of sport and on their autonomy, creativity, and moral reasoning outside of sport.

A review by New York Times columnist Gretchen Reynolds says, “Erdal clearly explains the latest research — hers and other scientists’ — about how today’s intense, competitive, over-organized, and ‘adulterated’ approach to children's sports is failing so many of our children and having a rather unfortunate effect on the behavior of parents and coaches too.”

Erdal explores concerns about the future of sport itself, as adult-driven selection practices and expectations reduce the number of young athletes earlier in the participation process and on questionable criteria. Parents’ and coaches’ complicity in these practices, however, is based on poorly interpreting (or ignoring) the research literature about children’s health and well-being in sport.

The final chapters offer practical and scientifically valid suggestions for improving the recruitment, coaching, and encouragement of young players.

Erdal, also chair of the Human Biology and Kinesiology Department, has conducted clinical and experimental research in depression and anxiety in Parkinson’s disease, and on cross-cultural issues in depression and its treatment. She has conducted experimental research in the malingering of head injury, placebo sleep, and in recent years has focused on sport-related topics such as sport superstition, sport concussion, stereotyping in athletes, and how athletes may fake neuropsychological baseline tests to affect return-to-play decisions post-concussion. Erdal frequently collaborates with CC student researchers, and several students have published under her mentorship.

“The Adulteration of Children’s Sports” is published by Lexington Books.