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Sport and youth development

Published: 
Monday, November 20, 2017

The key to youth development through sport is dependent upon the quality sport programmes and the leadership competencies of administrators, coordinators, coaches and parents. Seefeldt (1987) claims that when young people participate in sports, the benefits spread over a variety of important areas of youth development.

One of the key benefits is a culture of participation in physical activity which can extend throughout a lifetime. This habit of physical activity can result in the improvement of their overall fitness levels. In addition, involvement in sport and physical activity can also contribute to establishing important social and emotional skills, and high levels of self-esteem.

However, there are several barriers to youth participation in sport. These barriers are connected to social, economic and cultural changes taking place in the wider society. The pressures of the education system and parents on children to focus on passing exams serves as a distraction away from the enjoyment of participating in physical activity. In fact some parents and adults may see engagement in physical activity as a waste of time and some children come to accept this as an unfortunate truth.

Additionally, there are more leisure options such as social media, malls and movies that may serve as relaxing and fun alternatives to sport and physical activity.

Sport provide the youth the opportunity through their interaction with coaches, parents and their peers to improve their overall social and emotional intelligence. These skillsets have the potential to assist in managing emotions and addressing various interpersonal issues that arise. However, it is important for coaches and parents to be aware that participation in sport will not automatically equip the youth with appropriate social and emotional intelligence.

Adults have to express that failure is a part of life. Failure must be explored as a means of developing new strategies for success. The many sporting successes that accompany athletes after failure must be communicated to provide a positive context for the youth to keep working toward their goals. In this regard, coaches, administrators and parents have to ensure that their feedback is always constructive and positively reinforces what is required to achieve success.