An Integrative Case Study of Positive Youth Development in a Recreational Community Sport Program

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Vierimaa, Matthew
Youth Sport , Sport Psychology
Participation in organized activities is associated with many markers of positive youth development (PYD) such as improved self-esteem, social competence, and academic achievement (Mahoney et al., 2009). Sport is an extra-curricular activity that is particularly popular among youth, as nearly three quarters of Canadian children and adolescents are engaged in organized sport or physical activity (CFLRI, 2012). Much of the research in this area has examined sport programs which are explicitly structured to promote life skills or PYD outcomes; however, the sustainability of such programs has recently been called into question (Turnnidge, Hancock, & Côté, 2014). The purpose of this program of research was to conduct an in-depth case study of a successful, sustainable community youth basketball league. Study 1 was a qualitative descriptive exploration of coaches’ perceptions of the basketball league. This study provided a general overview of the structure and perceived benefits of the league, from the perspective of current coaches. Coaches highlighted the unique emphasis that the league places on fun and positive immediate sport experiences. Study 2 expanded on selected themes from Study 1, namely, the salience of the league’s culture and tendency for former players to return to the league as volunteers. This study used an ethnographic approach wherein the first author volunteered as an assistant coach on a basketball team over the course of a six-month season. This approach enabled him to gain considerable first hand insight into the organizational culture of the basketball league. The third and final study adopted a quantitative approach using both systematic observation and questionnaires to investigate the relationship between PYD outcomes and observed athlete behaviour during basketball games. A cluster analysis revealed the presence of two distinct groups of athletes characterized by relatively high and low perceptions of PYD outcomes, which were also associated with varying behavioural characteristics during competition. The results of these three studies provide a detailed blueprint of a successful youth sport program that has been sustained over 60 years. While not without limitations, many characteristics of the league should prove useful in structuring youth sport programs in other contexts.
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