AbstractThis paper offers a brief review of the studies and research devoted to the analysis of youth sports programs. Some articles analyze the issue from the standpoint of the value that such programs bring to the population. In most cases, these studies point out such value as increased self-esteem, higher social adaptation, and positive health promotion. Some articles, in turn, try to outline those characteristics that should be essentially considered in order to ensure that the program delivers the value described above. These characteristics mainly involve financial and human factors. As such, it seems to be important to ensure that the program is affordable to anyone who demonstrates the desire to join in as well as to see to the fact that the involved instructors possess the competencies essential to stimulate continual health promotion. Another factor that is sometimes pointed out is the diversity of the activities that a program offers. As such, positive participants’ experience is mainly associated with those programs that offer both recreational and competitive forms of sports. Likewise, if the latter sports format is included, it is important to ensure that the program complies with the “fair play” principle guaranteeing unbiased and fair attitude of the coaches.

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Keywords: youth sports program, health promotion, social adaptation, self-esteem, affordability

Youth Sports Program
Introducing a youth sports program to a school or community is not an easy task for it requires consistent planning and goal setting. In order to develop an effective program, it is, first and foremost essential to formulate which purposes this program is supposed t target as well as what value it can potentially bring to its participants. This paper provides a brief review of the research and articles devoted to the analysis of youth sports programs. Each article offers its own perspective on the theme analysis and it is expected that this review will give some valuable insights into what aspects need to be considered to design an effective sports program.

A large body of articles discusses the goals and tasks that a successful youth sports program helps to achieve. Thus, for instance, Coakley (2011) argues that a youth sports program is, first and foremost, a form of social engagement that helps young people to develop the skills that will be further essential to achieve personal success. From this perspective, the main value of sports programs implemented at schools or youth communities is that they teach young people to become disciplined capable of controlling their body and emotions. To sum up, Coakley’s (2011) central idea is that sports programs (once effectively designed) have a pedagogical function for they have a powerful impact on the formation of young individuals. An identic idea is expressed in Spaaij, Magee, and Jeanes’s (2012) article which explores the value of youth sports programs applied to the socially disadvantaged environment. The researchers suggest that such programs can be used to minimize the negative implications associated with unemployment and social exclusion of young people. They support their hypothesis by a comparative analysis of two youth sports programs (Netherlands and UK). To a certain extent, Spaaij, Magee, and Jeanes’s (2012) article is an extension of Coakley’s work. The latter focuses on the social benefits that youth sports programs entail discussing the generally just to show that health promotion is not the only function of a sports program. The former, in turn, specify which particular social advantages such programs can potentially bring once applied to an environment where the social position of youth is disadvantaged.

While Spaaij, Magee, and Jeanes’s (2012) argue that youth sports programs can have positive effects on socially disadvantaged populations, Roult et al. (2015) show that they can likewise entail favorable outcomes once applied to young populations with health disabilities. Roult et al. (2015) offer a very insightful analysis of the youth sports programs which is important from two perspectives. First, they demonstrate one of the focuses such programs can address – young people with disabilities. In this view, they refer to the existing sports programs in Quebec so that their discussion is supported by the validated data. Second, they point out some barriers that interfere with a program’s effectiveness: the access to sports facilities, financial constraints, and poor communication between instructors and participants. As a result, this article shows which aspects need to be especially considered while developing a youth sports program for a school or community.

Coakley’s article is especially useful since it offers a principally new perspective on the value of youth sports program. As a rule, this value is confined to health improvement opportunities that such programs entail. Thus, for example, Geidne, Quennerstedt, and Eriksson (2013) approach the issue of youth sports programs from the healthcare perspective. The researchers focus on those youth programs that operate in the form of sports clubs so that they are open to wide audience notwithstanding the initial sports competence. Moreover, these clubs are voluntary opposite to those sports programs that are sometimes implemented into the school curriculum. The key value of this research is that it shows that the health promoting effect of a sports club should be stimulated through creating a supportive and healthy environment responsive to the needs and interests of the relevant age group. In other words, both Coakley (2011) and Geidne, Quennerstedt, and Eriksson (2013) point out at the need for creating a consistent strategy which would outline the purposes of the program as well as the methods that will be used to meet them. If such strategy is created, a youth sports program will have a positive effect on the social development of the young participants as well as on their health condition.

While Geidne, Quennerstedt, and Eriksson (2013) offer a general analysis of the health-promoting function of youth sports clubs, Meganck, Scheerder, Thibaut, and Seghers’s (2014) study is more specific trying to outline the particular aspects that need to be addressed to ensure that a youth sports club promotes health. The researchers surveyed over a hundred members of different youth sports clubs in order to understand which characteristics of a youth sports club are critical to stimulating successful health promotion. The survey revealed that the diversity of sports offered by the club, i.e. both recreational sports and sports completions, is one of the main preconditions for high health promotion indices. Likewise, reasonable prices maximize the availability of the youth sports club so that its health promotion value rises significantly. Among the most frequently pointed out disadvantages, the respondents would name the lack of the health promotion experts involved in the clubs. This theme, i.e. the aspects that determine participants’ experience, is also explored by Whisenant and Jordan (2008). The researchers focus on one specific aspect which is the individuality of a coach. In other words, the researchers argue that personal qualities of the instructors involved in the program can either increase the number of a program’s participants or alienate youth if they consider that the instructors are unfair or unprofessional. These studies are very important for, as well as Roult’s et al. (2015) article, it offers some valuable insights into what particular characteristics make an effective youth sports program.

An identic research was performed by Reverdito et al. (2017) with the only exception that Meganck et al. (2014) focused on the prerequisites of an effective youth sports program, while Reverdito et al. (2017) try to define the value that such effective programs bring. They study carried out with the participation of teenagers from 13 to 15 years old who completed two inventories (Youth Experience in Sports Questionnaire and General Self-Efficacy Scale) to describe the experience of their membership in a particular sports club or participation in a sports program. Their responses revealed that positive experience is the key determinant of the length of membership in a sports club. Therefore, it is important to consider all the options of improving the participants’ experience in order to maximize the positive effect of a youth sports program.

To sum to, it can be concluded that the review of the relevant literature has revealed that an effectively designed youth sports program can bring at least two types of value: social and health. Youth sports programs can be applied to resolve different tasks such as to help socially disadvantage populations integrate into the society or to stimulate positive sports experience in disabled populations. The aspects, that need to be considered to ensure that the program is effective, involve financial availability, instructor’s professionalism, and the diversity of sports activities (both recreation and competitive formats) that the program offers.

  • Coakley, J. (2011). Youth Sports: What counts as “positive development? Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 35(3), 306-324.
  • Geidne, S., Quennerstedt, M., & Eriksson, C. (2013). The youth sports club as a health-promoting setting: An integrative review of research. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, 41(3), 269-283.
  • Meganck, J., Scheerder, J., Thibaut, E., & Seghers, J. (2014). Youth sports clubs’ potential as health-promoting setting: Profiles, motives and barriers. Health Education Journal, 74(5), 531-543.
  • Reverdito, R. S., Carvalho, H. M.., Galatti, L. R., Scaglia, A. J., Gonçalves, C. E., & Paes, R. R. (2017). Effects of youth participation in extra-curricular sport programs on perceived self-efficacy: A multilevel analysis. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 124(3), 569-583.
  • Roult, R., Brunet, I., Balley-Ranger, E., Carbonneau, H., & Fortier, J. (2015). Inclusive sporting events in schools for youth with disabilities in Quebect. SAGE Open, 5(3).
  • Spaaij, R., Magee, J., & Jeanes, R. (2012). Urban youth, worklessness and sport: A comparison of sports-based employability programmes in Rotterdam and Stoke-on-Trent. Urban Studies, 50(8), 1608-1624.
  • Whisenant, W, & Jordan, J. S. (2008). Fairness and enjoyment in school sponsored youth sports. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 43(1), 91-100.