Competitive Readiness: Developmental Considerations to Promote Positive Youth Development in Competitive Activities


  • Jillian Kochanek Michigan State University
  • Alysha Matthews Michigan State University
  • Emily Wright Michigan State University
  • Justin DiSanti Michigan State University
  • Michelle Neff Michigan State University
  • Karl Erickson Michigan State University



competitive readiness, youth development, competition


Competitive experiences have the potential to empower youth. Understanding the conditions under which young people can grow through competition is necessary to identify how competitive experiences can optimally support youth as engaged participants and people. This paper serves as a novel integration of previous research aimed toward practitioners. The purpose of this paper is to provide adult (and youth) leaders with empirically-based, practically meaningful guidance to integrate practices that support competitive readiness for youth development. To clarify the youth competitive readiness debate, this paper adopts a process-oriented, developmental perspective. We first define and provide background on youth development. Second, we put forth guiding postulates and their application to practice for organized competitive experiences for positive youth development promotion. We argue that youth are “ready” to compete not just when they can survive competitive experiences, but thrive through them. Interactions between individual, contextual, and developmental factors over time influence fluctuations in a young person’s state of competitive readiness. In this way, competitive readiness is an ongoing process that encompasses the individual needs of the child in relation to the environment.

Author Biographies

Jillian Kochanek, Michigan State University

Jill Kochanek is a doctoral student in Kinesiology at Michigan State University's Institute for the Study of Youth Sport (ISYS). Jill received her master’s in Kinesiology with a concentration in sport psychology from the University of Minnesota, where she studied positive youth development through sport. Her current research focuses how coaches can guide athletes to take charge of their own developmental process and social progress. 


Alysha Matthews, Michigan State University

Alysha is a master’s student in Kinesiology who studies coaching in youth sport at Michigan State University’s Institute for the Study of Youth Sport. Her interests include interpersonal relationships, self-regulation, and coach effectiveness. She is specifically interested in the social and emotional dynamics of the coach-athlete relationship. 

Emily Wright, Michigan State University

Emily is a doctoral student in Kinesiology at Michigan State University’s Institute for the Study of Youth Sport. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in kinesiology from Penn State University, and her master’s degree in sport psychology from Miami University (Ohio). Her research interests include talent development and sport specialization with a primary focus on parents and youth sport athletes in this context. 

Justin DiSanti, Michigan State University

Justin is a doctoral student in Kinesiology at Michigan State University’s Institute for the Study of Youth Sport. He earned his bachelor's degrees in Psychology and Kinesiology from Penn State University before moving on to Miami University (Ohio) for his master's degree in sport psychology. His research interests include talent development and sport specialization, particularly in the youth and high school sport contexts.

Michelle Neff, Michigan State University

Michelle is an Extension Educator with Michigan State University Extension and has provided leadership on a variety of programs that center around 4-H, families and youth.  She currently works in the Preparing Michigan’s Children and Youth Institute and focuses on life skills development, healthy living, and working with 4-H Cloverbuds

Karl Erickson, Michigan State University

Dr. Erickson is a faculty member at the Institute for the Study of Youth Sport (ISYS) at Michigan State University's department of Kinesiology. His research focuses on athlete development and coaching in youth sport, and is primarily concerned with understanding youth sport as a context for personal development. His work integrates sport psychology, developmental science, and public health with a particular emphasis on how interpersonal processes associated with participation in sport (such as coach and peer interactions) influence psychosocial, health and performance development outcomes.


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