Authors: Zhenhao Zeng, Andria Cuello, Jonathan Skelly, Christopher Gigliello, Steven Riveras

Corresponding Author:
P.I. Zhen Hao Zeng, D.P.E. Professor of Sport Pedagogy
Department of Kinesiology, Brooklyn College of
The City University of New York, USA

Zhen Hao (Howard) Zeng is an associate professor of the Department of Kinesiology at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, USA. He has a doctoral degree in physical education and sport pedagogy; his fields of study are youth sports, teaching strategies in physical education and sports.

An Investigation of Youth Football Players’ Participation Motivations and Health Related Behaviors

Scientific studies investigating youth athletes have become increasingly broader and deeper since the first Youth Olympic Summer Games in 2010. This study examined the motivation factors that actually inspired the youth football athletes (YFAs) engaged in football practices and competitions and their health-related behaviors. Participants were 223 YFAs (age 16-18) from 10 high schools of New York City, USA. Adapted Questionnaire of Football Athlete’s Motivation and Health Related Behaviors (AQFAMHRB) was employed for data collection. The AQFAMHRB contains 19 questions examining participants’ motivation factors (MFs) and 27 questions investigating health-related behaviors. Data analysis included a 2 Supports (By-parents, By-school) x 2 Goal-Settings (For professional, For non-professional) MANOVA and other suitable methods. The top three scores from the 19 MFs from the AQSAMHRB were: “High technical-content” of Football, “For develop unique skill”, and “For shape body”, all three of these MFs are in the ‘Intrinsic motivation’ category and possess higher impact power on these YFAs’ participation motivation. The 2 x 2 MANOVA revealed that: no significant difference exists in the ‘Supports’ aspect (p >.70); however, significant difference was found in ‘Goal-settings’ (p < .00). Then a follow-up MANOVA determined: 13 out of 19 MFs comparisons in “Goal-settings” showed significant difference (p <. 05) with ‘For professional’ scored higher than ‘For non-professional’. The following MFs possess higher impact on YFAs: ‘to contest winners’, ‘to become a professional player’, ‘to establish prestige’, and ‘to become a coach’. Besides, both intrinsic and extrinsic MFs have significant impact on these YFAs’ motivations. Who “Support” their engagement is not the determinant but what goals the YFAs have set-up for themselves matter. Furthermore, to the 27 health-related behaviors in the AQSAMHRB, frequency and percentage data were summarized and analyzed. Findings from this aspect provided the first hand information about the YFAs’ ‘Eating Habits’, ‘Nutrition Knowledge and Status’, ‘Risk Behaviors’, and ‘Hygiene Behaviors’. These features of the YFAs’ health-related behaviors possess important meanings for improving YFAs’ coaching and management.

Keywords: youth sport, goal setting, support, competition, coaching, management

Football or American football is a North American sport that was formed in the late 19th century at college campuses. This sport was the evolution of the English game of Rugby. The first collegiate competition was played between Rutgers and Princeton Universities, in New Jersey, USA. The original form of football game was extremely violent and caused many injuries or even deaths during their competitions. Over the years, although football is still a physical sport with many injuries, the rules have been revised to the current formation; hence, today’s football games are safer than its original form. The highest organization of the sport is the National Football League (NFL); it was formed in 1921 and became one of the major professional leagues by the 1950’s. By far it has grown in popularity and has become one of the most watched professional leagues in USA sports (6).

Football is a true team sport; teamwork requirements are above any other team sports in the sports spectrum (6). Because of this feature, most players specialize their skills in a particular position. There are 11 players on defense and 11 players on offense; due to high strength and density of the game, many substitutions are needed. Most football teams have about 30 to 40 players. This feature ensures that good teamwork and overall team capability is more important than the abilities from any single player (6).

Moreover, “football is a full contact sport played by two teams of eleven players each defending a goal sat opposite ends of a rectangular field having goal posts at each end. Players wear a football helmet, a set of shoulder pads, thigh pads and guards, kneepads, chest protectors, and mouth guards” (6, p. 3).

New York City (NYC) is home to the headquarters of the NFL. NYC has a total of 11 sports teams in the five most important professional sports leagues in the USA. The New York Giants, a keystone NFL franchise, were founded in 1925, and exist today as one of the oldest presently active organizations in the NFL. So far, the New York Giants have won eight NFL titles (16).
According to High School Football (2017), “High school football is gridiron football played by high school teams in the United States and Canada. It ranks among the most popular interscholastic sports in both countries. High school football began in the late 19th century, concurrent with the start of many college football programs. In the late 19th and early 20th century, many college and high school teams played against one another. Other traditions of high school football such as pep rallies, marching bands, mascots, and homecomings are mirrored from college football.” (9, p. 1). Moreover, “No true minor league farm organizations exist in American football. Therefore, high school football is generally considered to be the third tier of American football in the US, behind professional and college competition. It is the first level of play in which a player will accumulate statistics, which will determine his chances of competing at the college level, and ultimately the professional level if he is talented enough.” (9, p. 2)

Research literature in youth sports indicated that, the goal and reasons of engaging in youth sports practices and competitions are: ‘enjoyment’, ‘physical health’, ‘having fun’, ‘foster self-esteem’, ‘friendship’, ‘passion or love the game’, and ‘peer acceptance’, ‘to contest winners’, ‘to become a coach’, ‘to satisfy family’s will’; whereas the first three reasons are similar for those participating in the dominant recreational activities of Western societies (4,5,6,20,24,25,26). Moreover, Miguel and Machar (14) indicted that motivation supports a successful sport performance; representing one of the most important psychological skills in the game he is playing. Based on their findings, the researchers are concerning: whether or not youth football players (YFAs) participate in their practices and competitions motivated by those factors or reasons as been indicated above? However, the problem is that the previous research studies involved in YFPs’ participation motivations and health-related behaviors were extremely limited.

Purpose and Hypotheses
From the introduction and youth sports research background above, although some of the reasons have been known in general, little is known about what kinds of factors or reasons (FRs) that actually motivated different types of YFPs who have continually engaged in football practices and competitions. The purpose of this study, therefore, was to investigate what FRs truly motivated the YFPs who play football ‘Support by school’ or ‘Support by parents’, and set their goal to become ‘Professional-players’ or ‘Non-professional-players’. The following specific hypotheses guided the present study: 1) no significant differences would be found on the motivation FRs between the YFPs who ‘Support by parents’ or ‘Support by school’; and 2) no significant differences would be found on the motivation FRs between the players who set their goal to become ‘Professional-players’ or ‘Non professional-players’.

Meanwhile, the 27 health-related elements/items on “Eating Habits” “Nutrition knowledge and status” “Risk behavior” and “Hygiene behaviors” of the YFPs were also investigated. The findings from this investigation would reveal and add a new set of data and first-hand information into the youth athletes study literatures, especially concerning youth football players’ participation motivations and health-related behaviors during their football practices and competitions. In brief, the findings from this investigation would be able to provide lively examples and meaningful evidences for enriching the youth sports educational programs and their curriculums.

Theoretical Framework
A comprehensive theoretical framework named ‘self-determination theory’ (SDT, 19) was employed as the theoretical framework of this study. The SDT is comprised of two major branches: the theory of intrinsic motivation and the theory of extrinsic motivation. Ryan and Deci (2000) indicated that: humans are motivated by three basic psychological needs: competence, relatedness, and autonomy. The competence needs in the SDT model is called effectiveness motivation; the relatedness need refers to people’s need to belong and to feel accepted by others; the autonomy need, however, refers to people’s need to feel self-determined, which is the source of their own action (19).

In terms of organismic needs energize intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, according to Harter (1981) and Pintrich and Schunk (2002), the concept of need in itself is too general and too vague to illustrate the engagement in particular behaviors; to guide empirical research is difficult as well (8,17). A few models, therefore, describe how different motivations triggered by need manifest in intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in specific aspects or activities were developed (e.g., 19,20,1,8).
Stipek (1996) indicated that the research literature is quite consistent with regard to the benefits of intrinsic motivation to learning and development; that is, engagement based on intrinsic motivation does not need external incentives / rewarding and is able to enhance the motivations necessary to engage in the same activity again and again in the future (23). Researchers also indicated that engagements based on intrinsic motivations are connected with enhanced comprehension, creativity, cognitive flexibility, accomplishment, and so on (11,23).

Furthermore, Breese (1998) illustrated that athletics’ initial motivation should be defined as intrinsic motivation (participating in sport for enjoyment) or extrinsic motivation (participating in sport to gain rewards). He further illustrated, athletics’ initial motivation usually predicts athletes’ attendance and adherence to a particular sport (1). Such as in the present study, a YFP who is intrinsically motivated would be one who goes to play or practice his skills every other day for fun; whereas a football player who is extrinsically motivated would be one who goes to practice his football skills to become a better player at the practices so that he could win a medal at competitions. It is interesting to know that intrinsic and extrinsic motivation have different effects on an athlete; whether or not he continues the sport he had chosen (1).

Likewise, Ryan et al., (1997) explained that individuals who were mainly motivated by competence (engaging in practices to improve skills) and enjoyment (desire to have fun and enjoyment) could be primarily defined as being motivated intrinsically (20). In contrast, extrinsically motivated individuals are those behaviors performed in competitions aimed at obtaining rewards or consequences that are unconnected from the behavior itself (20). Breese (1998) further explained that, when athletes begin participation in a particular sport, they are motivated not only by intrinsic factors but also by extrinsic factors (1). Particular sports, however, may be more reliant on intrinsic motivation than extrinsic motivation (20). The reasons are: different types of sports need different types of motivation (1). In the present study, the researchers were trying to find evidence or factors that have actually motivated the youth athletes who have engaged in the sport of football for numbers of years.

Additionally, in regard to how educators (coach or teacher) apply the “self determination theory” to enhance their coaching or teaching, Kaplan (2010) in his review of literature article described that: “While some important variation exists, there seems to be a wide-spread consensus among researchers and educators that enhancing intrinsic motivation among athletes or students is beneficial”(11). He continued:

Kids’ intrinsic motivation is enhanced when practices promote their sense of personal autonomy, when team or schoolwork are challenging and relevant to them, when social relationships are supportive, and when environments are physically and psychologically safe. Practices that promote these environmental characteristics include providing athletes / students with choices among activities and between ways of completing tasks, encouraging athletes / students to explore and pursue their ambition, building on their backgrounds and prior experiences in constructing tasks, encouraging them to collaborate, incorporating fantasy in activities, providing feedback that is informative and frequent, and reducing external rewards (11, p. 2).

In many cases, however, athletes / students are required to engage in tasks that they are not motivated in or do not understand why they have to do the tasks. Under such situations the extrinsic motivations should be implemented to those tasks. However, coaches / teachers should pursue the internalization of athletes’ / students’ extrinsic motivation for these tasks. Such internalization can be promoted by employing as many of the descriptions specified previously as possible. Furthermore, coaches / teachers should make the value of the activity / tasks explicit and clear. These can be done most effectively through modeling and by providing a clear and age-appropriate rationale for the kids (11).

The participants in the present study were selected from 10 high schools in the NYC public school system. The students’ populations or enrollments of these selected high schools were from 1,285 to 4,575. All selected schools in the present study are under the administration of the NYC Department of Education; but these selected schools’ football teams belong to two different athletic associations: one is the Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL) and the mission of the PSAL is to “provide opportunities for educating students in physical fitness, character development and socialization skills through an athletic program that fosters teamwork, discipline and sportsmanship” (16). The other one belongs to “the Charter School Athletic Association (CSAA)” and the mission of the CSAA is: “Through community and school partnerships, the CSAA works with NYC charter schools to develop and maintain inter-scholastic sports leagues and arts programs. By nurturing charter school students’ appreciation for the arts, sports, physical fitness, and nutrition the CSAA gives these students access to high quality programing committed to the values of cooperation, fairness, and respect” (2, p. 2).

Moreover, both leagues agreed and implemented the following statement: as a youth football league, we take great pride in sending our young men onto colleges or universities and even in some cases to the NFL. Since our leagues were established, we have been implementing the following educational idea: “More importantly though is our heightened sense of responsibility in teaching children the values of hard work, dedication and the importance of education.” (9, p. 2). They strongly believed that, “The youth of today will soon be the leaders of tomorrow and all of us are proud to be a part of that mentoring process” (9, p. 2).

The Instrumentation
The Adapted Questionnaire of Football Player’s Motivation and Health Related Behaviors (AQFPMHRB, 25) was employed for data collection. The reasons for using the AQFPMHRB were: a) an existing questionnaire with similar purposes is available; b) to develop a new questionnaire, time and funding are needed; c) specialists in youth players’ motivation and health-related behaviors study are available to revise the wordings to fit in using for youth football players; and d) research assistants and youth football coaches are available for distributing and collecting the questionnaires.

Reliability and Validity of the Instrument
According to Child (1990), in order to explore the possible underlying factor of the structure for a set of measured variables without imposing any preconceived structure on the outcome, the exploratory factor analysis (EFA) is the best solution (3); therefore, the EFA was executed for the AQFPMHRB (25). The results revealed: the analysis extracted six factors with perfect correspondence to the 19 items with eigenvalues for the reasons or factors ranging from 2.65 to 8.57 and structure coefficients from .76 to .90 and the majority of the fitted residuals reached the pre set-up significant difference (P < .05) level.

Additionally, the validation process was through a pilot study, reviewing to the content or items. These processes confirmed the following concerns: a) the readability and writing skills of the youth participants (16–18 years old); b) whether or not those participants can truly understand and respond to the questions in the questionnaire correctly; c) it may result in re-wording on some questions or statements to improve the understanding for those youth athletes; d) it may result in cutting or adding numbers of the questions or statements in the questionnaire, and e) whether or not the questions or statements have asked all the possible motivation factors or reasons for the youth athletes participation in football practices and competition.

As a result, the AQFPMHRB (25) contained three parts: Part I asked ‘General Information’, containing seven questions that covered participant’s general information. Part II examined, “What reasons/factors motivated you to take part in football practices and competitions continually” with 19 motivation factors (MFs) provided. In each MF the participant responds in a 5-points Likert type scale (5-points represents “Strongly agree “, 4-points represents “Agree”, 3-points represents “Somewhat-agree”, 2-points represents “Little-agree”, and 1-point represents “Disagree”). Part III investigated 27 health-related questions or behaviors that under the following four sub-categories: ‘Eating Habits’, ‘Nutrition Knowledge and Status’, ‘Risk Behavior’, and ‘Hygiene Behaviors’. To be clearer, these 27 health-related questions or behaviors in Part III are belonging to qualitative data, hence, the frequency and percentage were used for dealing with these data. In summary, Part II of the questionnaire contains 10 intrinsic motivation factors (items 1, 2, 4, 7, 8, 10, 13, 14, 15, and 17) and nine extrinsic motivation factors (items 3, 5, 6, 9, 11, 12, 16, 18, and 19). In other words, it included the three basic psychological needs (competence, relatedness, and autonomy) described by Ryan and Deci (2000). Part III contains 27 health-related behaviors of the youth athletes, which is qualitative data. All questions/items in the AQFPMHRB (25) can be found in Table 2 and Appendix A*. (*Limited by the amount of words.)

Data Collection
The questionnaires were distributed to the participants during a planned practice day of their team by the researchers under the supervision of their coach and administrators. The participants were given their rights to participate or not to participate and the ‘confidentiality’ of the survey was also presented. An explanation about how to respond to the questions on the questionnaire was given; then, an envelope for preventing the participant’s coach or instructor from viewing the answers on the questionnaires was provided. By this moment, the participants signed the Informed Consent Form and returned it to the researchers. The coaches were informed that after the study completion, the overall outcomes of this investigation would be provided to their teams. As a result, among the 300 questionnaires delivered, 223 were correctly completed and returned to the researchers (return rate = 74.33%).

Research Design and Data Analyze
The research design and data analyses for this investigation were: first, to look at the effects of two independent variables on 19 dependent variables, which are ‘Supporting (by-parents, by-school)’ x ‘Goal-setting (for-professional, for-non-professional)’ at the same time. Therefore, a 2 x 2 factorial multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA), and after significant differences findings a follow-up MANOVA was implemented. The descriptive statistics reflected the general status of how the participants were motivated to participate in football practices and competitions; the 2 x 2 MANOVA examined whether or not there are significant differences exist among the two independent variables and the 19 dependent variables; and the follow-up MANOVA determined what differences exactly exist among the dependent variables. The statistical program used for the data analyses was IBM Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) Version 25.

Furthermore, concerning participants’ health-related behaviors, the following four sub areas were investigated and analyzed: 1) ‘Eating Habits’, 2) Nutrition Knowledge and Status’, 3) ‘Risk Behaviors’, and 4) ‘Hygiene Behaviors’, total involving 27 questions / behaviors. Because of the structures and characteristics of these questions / behaviors, frequency and percentage methods were utilized for data analyzing. The results from this part of the investigation were aimed at reflecting the participants’ current status of health-related behaviors.

All the results were summarized in Table 1 to Table 5. It aims at revealing what reasons or factors actually motivated these YFPs to engage in the sport and reveal their health-related behaviors status as well. Of the 300 questionnaires distributed, 223 were completed correctly and returned to the researcher. This represented a good return rate of 74.33%. Data in Table 1 reflected “General Information of the participants”. For example, the participants self-reported that: They have been officially engaged in football practicing and competitions for three to five years. Their height range was from 5’7’’ to 6’4’’ feet, and their weight range was from 161 1bs to 231.5 1bs. They were all current students of the public high schools of NYC; age range from 16 to 18 (grades 9 to 12).

It is worth illustrating that: Athletes from the PSAL football teams represent the highest skill and competitive capability in the youth competitive sport system of NYC; athletes from the CSAA football teams represent slightly lower skill and competitive capability in that youth sport system. The PSAL football teams practice at least five half days per week, including a morning exercise and an afternoon practice (9). Depending on the different season, times of practices for each day would vary. Meanwhile, the CSAA football teams may also have five afternoon practices per week; but the times for practicing might be slightly less than those PSAL football teams because the financial support or budget differences between these two types of school systems (2). Table 1 reflects the general information about the participants of this study:

Table 1

The mean scores and the standard deviations are presented in Table 2:

Table 2

The results of the 2 x 2 MANOVA for comparing the motivations factors for the youth football athletes’ are presented in Table 3:

Table 3

The results of the 2 Supports (by school, by parents) x 2 Goal-Settings (for professional, for non-professional) MANOVA in Table 3 showed that: no significant difference in the ‘Supports’ aspect (p > .05), Λ = .929, F = .800; however, significant differences effect was found in the ‘Goal-setting’ aspect (p < .000), Λ = .718, F = 4.143.

According to the research design, after the significant differences effect was found, a follow-up MANOVA was conducted. This post hoc test determined where and what factors or reasons that truly motivated these participants to be engaged in football practices and competitions. Data presenting in the Table 4 was from the follow-up MANOVA, it determined what “Motivation Factors” really had differences and reflected the “Factors that truly motivated the YFPs to continually engage in football practices and competitions.” Detail findings are presented in Table 4.

Table 4

As showed on Table 4, the top six MFs were MF1 ‘Technical content & unique value’ (M = 4.636 ± .730), MF10 ‘Become a professional player (M = 4.466 ± .787), MF9 ‘to improve health’ (M = 4.352 ± 1.114), MF17 ‘to develop a unique skills’ (M = 4.341 ± .801), MF8 ‘to shape the body’ (M = 4.238 ± 1.154), and MF4 ‘For enjoyment and happiness’ (M = 4.147 ± .916), These six factors possessed the highest impact power on these YFPs’ motivation.

The bottom seven factors were MF2 ‘For fun and get rid of boredom’ (M = 3.613 ± 1.281), MF14 ‘to get the recognition’ (M = 3.556 ± 1.070), MF13 ‘to establish prestige’ (M = 3.545 ± 1.092), MF15 ‘to reduce the pressure’ (M = 3.523 ± 1.164), MF16 ‘to reduce troubles’ (M = 3.431 ± 1.201), MF5 ‘to meet my friends’ (M = 3.341 ± 1.294); and MF6 ‘to make new friends’ (M = 3.329 ± 1.229); these seven factors possessed less or lower impact power on these youth soccer player’s motivation. The other six factors’ mean score was in the medium level. These MFs were: MF3 “For healthier body’, MF7 ‘to contest winners’, MF18 ‘to become a coach’, MF19 ‘to satisfy family’s will’, MF12 ‘to improve my literacy’, and MF11 ‘to foster self-esteem’. The mean scores and deviations were from M = 3.556 ± 1.133 to M = 4.147 ± .903. These six factors possess medium impact power on these youth football athletes’ participation motivations.

The findings from the Part III of the AQFPMHRB (25) including four sub-areas such as, ‘Eating Habits’, Nutrition Knowledge and Status’, ‘Risk Behaviors’, and ‘Hygiene Behaviors’ involved a total of 27 health-related behaviors as presented in Table 5:

Table 5

Data presented in Table 5 reflected the precious features and current status of these YFPs’ health-related behaviors. The researchers believe that these four sub-areas of health-related behaviors are very important to the youth football athletes and possess a positive relationship with their successful rate. That is, the better their health-related behaviors, the higher success rate for them to become elite football athletes. Furthermore, from an educational perspective, coaches, teachers, and administrators who work for the youth football teams should educate their athletes or students to gradually develop these positive health-related behaviors, so that the youth athletes gradually develop their positive participation motivations and those related health behaviors.

The following are the most significant findings highlighted from Table 5: 1) 83% of them eat regularly to very regularly, 2) 96% of them eat three meals or more per day, 3) 65% of them did add salt to their dishes but 35% of them did not, 4) at least 41% of them did try to reduce the amount of sugars they eat, 5) 84% of them drink one to five cups of milk / yoghurt / juce per day, 6) 96% of them reported they never eat before and after strenuous exercise. 7) 73% of them reported they possess good to very good nutrition knowledge, 8) 91% of them said they eat fruit every day, 9) 83% of them said they eat vegetables every day, 10) 100% of them reported they eat fish but some of them ate fish once every other day; 11) 100% of them reported they eat wholemeal bread; 12) 95.5% of them reported they eat dinner with meat every day. 13) 44% in favor eat chicken, 14) 96% of them reported they eat fried foods. 15) 96% of them admitted they occasionally drink alcohol; 16) 70% of them claimed they never or seldom smoke cigarettes; 17) 100% of them said they never use any psychoactive substances; 18) 100% of them said they never use anabolic steroid; 19) 80% of them reported they know the health consequences of using the prohibited anabolic steroid. 20) 85% of them claimed they never use sun cream when they play football; 21) 80% of them said they take a shower after practicing or competition; (Note, no highline for No. 22 to 24), 25) 86% of them claimed they had good sleep after an intensive practice, 26) 47% of them reported their sleep was not so good after an intensive competition / game; and 27) 80% of them said that when they sweat they immediately drink water (for more detail see Table).

The present study was designed for 1) exploring the current status and features of the YFPs’ engagement motivations from the public high schools of New York City, USA (age 16-18); 2) examining if differences exist on the MFs among the participants’ ‘Supports’ and ‘Goal-settings’ aspects; and 3) investigating the status of health-related behaviors of this sample’s YFPs. First, according to the data exhibited in Table 2, the scores places can be divided into three groups: 1) The high impact factors group, containing MF1, MF17, MF8, MF3, MF10 and MF7, it possesses the highest score and impact power on this sample’s YFPs’ motivation. Amazingly, among these six MFs, five of them (MF1, MF17, MF8 MF10 and MF7) are in ‘Intrinsic factors’ category, only the MF3 is from the ‘Extrinsic factors’ category.

Second, the medium impact MFs group with medium high scores, containing MF9, MF4, MF2, MF18, MF6, and MF5, it possesses medium impact power on this sample’s YFPs’ motivation. Quite differ from the first group, this group has four MFs (that are MFs 9, 18, 6, and 5) belong to the ‘Extrinsic factors’ category; and there are two MFs (MFs 4 and 2) belong to the ‘Intrinsic factors’ category.

Third, the lower impact MFs group, consisting of MF14, MF13, MF15, MF12, MF19, MF16, and MF11 seven MFs, it possesses significantly lower impact power on these participants’ motivations. Incredibly, there are three MFs belong to the ‘Intrinsic factors’ category (MFs (14, 13, and 15); while there are four MFs are belong to the ‘Extrinsic factors’ category (MFs 12, 19, 16 and 11) (See Table 2).

In summary: 1) With regard to this sample’s participants’ motivation features, the ‘Intrinsic factors’ appear to possess higher impact power on their motivations; because unexpectedly there are five MFs from the ‘Intrinsic factors’ category. It can be concluded that the 10 ‘Intrinsic factors’ in the AQFAMHRB (Zeng & Meng, 25) were the core motivation factors for these YFPs. 2) There are some factors or reasons that possess higher impact power than the other factors, and also some factors or reasons that possess less impact power than the others factors. Based on the findings from the present study, youth football coaches, trainers, or administrators should diagnose and analyze their players’ specific situation and implement the findings accordingly. The motivation features of this sample’ YFPs can be summarized as Figure 1.

Figure 1

Furthermore, the follow-up MANOVA test revealed that 13 out of 19 comparisons showed significant differences; wherein six comparisons reached significant at p < .05 level; and seven comparisons reached significant p < .01 level with ‘for-professional’ scored significantly higher than ‘for non-professional’. These 13 MFs were: MF1 ‘technical content and unique value’, MF4 ‘for enjoyment and happiness’, MF7 ‘to contest winners’, MF9 ‘to improve physical health’, MF 10 ‘to become a professional player’, MF11 ‘to foster self-esteem’, MF12 ‘to improve my own reputation’, MF13 ‘to establish prestige’, MF14 ‘to get the recognition’, MF15 ‘to reduce pressure’, MF16 ‘to reduce the troubles’, MF18 ‘to become a football coach’ and MF19 ‘to satisfy the will of family’. It is understandable that when these YFPs face these 13 MFs, their reactions or responses were so different. The players who set up their goal 'to become a professional' were warmer, even filled with passion, because they had stronger feelings about those motivation factors or reasons, they were actually motivated to engage in the football practices and competitions with their teammates / friends day by day, and they are in love with their training environment, and their teams have strong cohesion atmosphere. Additionally, these athletes are serious on their ‘Athlete career credit’ as the requirement for playing at the next level, a player will need to accumulate his athlete career credit, “which will determine his chances of competing at the college level, and ultimately the professional level if he is talented enough” (15 p. 3).

The YFPs need to accomplish all of these factors to reach their professional football dream. This is why these 10 MFs possess significantly higher impact power on their participation motivation (See Table 4). What would be the reasons behind those significant differences? The researchers believe there should be some very special facts behind this finding. When a YFP sets up his mind to become a ‘professional player’, he will much more seriously want to meet his/her teammates and make new teammates. During their practices and competitions, they will try their best to be on the top of his team because he wants to ‘become a winner’; this will help build up his biography and establish his good prestige (10). Moreover, if they achieve their goal – become ‘professional football players’, that will very well satisfy their ‘family’s will’. This is why they scored significantly higher than those who set–up their mind to be ‘non-professional’ players.

On the other hand, to those YFPs who set up their goal to be a ‘non-professional’ players, when they face those motivation questions / factors (such as: meet friends, contest winners, get the recognition, establish prestige, and become a professional player) their reactions or responses were not as warm as those who want to become professional players; their excitement level was much lower than those who ‘for-professional’ players; they might have been practicing, receiving coaching, reacting to the training degree of challenges, and attending competitions differently. Another reason might be that these type of football players have better academic performance and might only want to play in the university / college level (e.g., the America National Collegiate Athletics Association [NCAA division II or III, (15)] only. Therefore, in the current stage, motivation factors such as ‘contest winners’, ‘establish prestige’, ‘become a professional’, and ‘become a coach’ are not what they concern; hence, the results of this survey were reasonable, logical, and correspond to YFPs’ reality.

When comparing the motivation factors between the two ‘Goal-settings’, some interesting and unique facts came out: 1) the athletes who set up their goal ‘for-professional’ were significantly more appreciative of the motivation factors of MF7 ‘contest winners’; MF10 ‘become a professional player’; MF12 ‘improve my own reputation’; than those who set up their goal ‘for-non-professional’. What was the key reason for all of these? The researchers strongly believe: that is still the intrinsic factors’ cause, because that is what those YFPs really want to be. Successful or not, they must try their best.

It should be indicated that there are certain similarities and differences existing between the present study and those from previous studies. For example, using the previous studies’ findings for the sport of tennis, soccer, volleyball, and basketball such as: A review of literature in ‘Motivation in Tennis’ by Miguel and Machar (14); ‘Research studies in youth athletes’ participation motivations in soccer, volleyball, and basketball’ by Zeng et al, (25,27).

On one hand, Miguel and Machar (14) summarized that: First, ‘Enjoyment’, ‘Having fun’, and ‘Passion on the sport’ were rated as the top three important motivation factors for the success of youth tennis players. Second, ‘Improving performance’, ‘Keeping fit’, and ‘Socializing’ were rated as their basic reasons for keeping them involved in the sport. Third, ‘Feeling important and popular’ and ‘Earning rewards’ were ranked as lower influence motivations. And last, School / club / team atmosphere and having a good relationship with the coach were also ranked as less or lower important factors on players’ motivations.

On the other hand, research findings from youth soccer by Zeng et el. (24) indicated that the top six factors were ‘Technical content & unique value’, ‘To meet friends’, ‘For fun’, ‘To make new friends’, ‘For my biography’, and ‘To establish prestige’; the other six factors, however, possessed less or lower impact power on these youth soccer player’s motivation, including: ‘Get the recognition’, ‘To improve health’, ‘For one unique skills’, ‘To reduce troubles’,‘To be a professional’, ‘To satisfy family’s will’. Furthermore, Zeng and Meng in their ‘Youth volleyball players’ motivations’ described that: the top six factors were ‘Technical content & unique value’, ‘To develop a extraordinary skills’, ‘For getting healthier’, ‘For enjoyment and happiness’, ‘To improve my own-biography’, and ‘To improve physical fitness’; these six factors possessed the highest impact power on these youth volleyball players’ motivation. The middle six factors were ‘To make new friends’, ‘To contest winners’, ‘To meet friends’, ‘To reduce working pressure’, ‘To reduce pressure from academic learning’, and ‘To foster self-esteem’; these six factors possessed medium impact power on these youth volleyball players’ motivation. The final seven motivation-factors possess lower or less impact power on these youth volleyball players’ motivations (25).

As presented above, although the aforementioned studies were conducted in different sports, the findings have many similarities. Specifically, top to medium impact power factors or reasons for the youth athletes keeping engaged in the sports are similar. Meanwhile, when contrasting the factors or reasons of ‘feeling important and popular’, ‘earning rewards’, ‘team atmosphere’ and ‘good relationship with coach’ from the previous studies with the factors of ‘technical content and unique value’, ‘unique skills’, ‘for fun’, ‘for biography’, ‘for establish prestige’, ‘become a professional player’, ‘for self-esteem’, ‘to contest winners’, and ‘become a basketball coach’ etc. from the present study, it is not hard to find out that there are so many differences between their studies and the present study.

Due to the fact that no research study has covered the ‘Health-related behaviors’ in the domain of youth football, the present study did an exploring investigation in this concern; because this is an initial try, its design, data collection, and analyses are far from perfection. However, it should be a good start for notifying researchers to pay attention on heath related behaviors study in the field of youth sports research. To the results presented in Table 5, the researchers cannot accurately make assessment on how good or not so good about their ‘Health-Related Behaviors’, but the findings in Table 5 did reflect the current status of ‘Health-Related Behaviors’ of the participants. Generally speaking, this is a set of qualitative data, its description was based on a four points of “Excellent [4], Very-good [3], Good [2], and Not so good [1]. The overall result of their status is right in the position between excellent and very good on the scale.

What this means? It means: 1) During their practices and competitions these YFPs had obtained positive and corrective education in ‘Eating Habits’, ‘Nutrition knowledge’, ‘Risk behaviors’, and ‘Hygiene behaviors’ from their coaches, instructors, and administrators. 2) There is room for improvement regarding these YFPs’ “Health-Related Behaviors” although their status was pretty positive. 3) The results of the assessments have also indirectly reflected that these youth football teams have strict regulations or legislation to manage their athletes’ daily life. From the health education perspective, the researchers believe that it is a positive and beautiful thing that deserves recommendation to the other youth sports. With this consideration, this point is consistent with the point of the literature review article by Geidne, Quennerstedt, and Eriksson (2013); the researchers indicated that with regard to building healthy public policy, youth sports teams / schools should recognize and match up with the changes in regulations or legislation at a central level, and then carry out these regulations or legislation to different types of teams or schools (7). All of these changes in legislation, organization, and policies have one thing in common: it imposes health on the agenda (7).

With regard to the two particular hypotheses that guided the current study, the findings revealed that hypothesis one is true, which is: “No significant differences exist on the motivation factors between the ‘Supporting’ (by-parents, by-school) aspect of the YFPs. And that hypothesis two is not true, which is: in the ‘Goal-settings’ aspect: significant differences exist on the motivation factors between the ‘for-professional’, ‘for non-professional’ of the YFPs.

In conclusion, the findings of this investigation exposed: ‘Supporting’ is not the determination aspect; but the ‘Goal-settings’ aspect is. The YFPs who set up their goal for-professional possess higher motivation than those YFPs who set up their goal for non-professional. Moreover, with regard to the motivations of the participants, the “Intrinsic factors” possess remarkably higher impact power than those of the “Extrinsic factors”. Specifically, the following MFs, such as: MF1 ‘Technical content & unique value’, MF10 ‘Become a professional player’, MF9 ‘To improve health’, MF17 ‘To develop a unique skills’, MF8 ‘To shape body’, and MF4 ‘For enjoyment and happiness’ possess the highest impact power on these YFPs’ motivations. At the same time, it also can conclude that some MFs possess lower impact power, such as: MF2 ‘for fun and get rid of boredom’, MF14 ‘to get the recognition’, MF13 ‘to establish prestige’, MF15 ‘to reduce the pressure’, MF16 ‘to reduce troubles’, MF5 ‘to meet my friends’, and MF6 ‘to make new friends’ (See Table 4).

Youth football educators need to base on profounder diagnosis and analysis on their players’ / athletes’ situations and utilize these research findings correspondingly. Lastly, on the health-related behaviors aspect, we can qualitatively conclude that the grand mean score of the participants’ health-related behaviors in all four sub-categories were located in between the position of ‘Excellent’ (4) and ‘Very good’ (3) by using a four points assessment scale.

There were several limitations in the current study. First, the size of sampling was relatively small. Second, the data collection scope only covered one city. Third, youth football coaches might have some impact on their athletes’ participation motivations, but that was not included in the objects of the current study. Last, the participants in the current study were selected on purpose. Future study can be improved on the above limitations by including the coaches from the participants’ teams (e.g., creating some open-ended questions for coaches to answer); extend data collection to multiple cities or multiple leagues; and select participants more thoroughly.

The present study explored the YFPs’ participation motivations and health-related behaviors from New York City, USA. The top 10 MFs for these youth players engaged in their football practices and competitions are: ‘technical content and unique value’, ‘become a professional player’, ‘for unique skills’, ‘for shape the body’, ‘for enjoyment and happiness’, ‘for healthier body’, ‘to contest winners’, ‘to become a coach’, ‘to satisfy family’s will’, and ‘to improve my reputation’; and these 10 MFs have been found as the core value of their engagement motivations. Other than that, team atmosphere and good relationship between coaches and players also influenced these YFPs’ engagement motivations. Lastly, although the values of youth athletes’ engagement motivations have been recognized by those previous youth sports researchers (e.g., 13,14,20,11,24,25). Further studies, however, are certainly needed, especially in the area of how the intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation work differently on different types of youth football players; for example, a) players who set up their goal ‘to become professional’; b) players who set up their goal to be ‘non-professional’; c) players who are playing in public school teams; and d) players who are playing in Charter school teams.

Additionally, the health-related behaviors were explored in the present study might be another topic for researchers who have an interest in youth sports to pay attention to, because only those athletes who have developed their positive health-related behaviors during their youth years have a chance to become future football stars and make their dream come true.

The findings of the present investigation added a set of new data and information regarding the essential factors or reasons that truly motivated the YFPs engaging in football practices and competitions; the precious features about these YFPs’ health-related behaviors are also revealed. These findings could be lively examples and meaningful evidences for the coaches or physical educators used in their sports pedagogy or physical education programs. If this can be done, it will lead to better teaching, coaching, and management in youth sports.

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