Youth Sport Programs: An Avenue to Foster Positive Youth Development
Fraser-Thomas, Jessica L.
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Concern about the growth in adolescent problem behaviours (e.g. delinquency, drug use) has led to increased interest in positive youth development, and a surge in funding for ‘after school programs.’ We evaluate the potential of youth sport programs to foster positive development, while decreasing the risk of problem behaviours. Literature on the positive and negative outcomes of youth sport is presented. We propose that youth sport programs actively work to assure positive outcomes through developmentally appropriate designs and supportive child–adult (parent/coach) relationships. We also highlight the importance of sport programs built on developmental assets (Benson, 1997 ) and appropriate setting features (National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, 2002 ) in bringing about the five ‘C’s of positive development (competence, confidence, character, connections, and compassion/caring: Lerner et al., 2000 ). An applied sport-programming model, which highlights the important roles of policy-makers, sport organizations, coaches and parents in fostering positive youth development is presented as a starting point for further applied and theoretical research.