Narratives on sport for development among side-lined youth: Socializing agent or empowering intervention?


Sport for Development (SFD) programs mobilize sport to fulfill many 'developmental' goals. Little is known about the specific benefits of SFD programs for youth who face developmental barriers due to socio-economic challenges. Debate ensues over whether the deployment of sport programming is to educate and empower marginalized ('sidelined') youth or reproduce standardized (socializing) behaviours. This study explores the developmental outcomes of SFD programs through the narratives of side-lined youth. Eleven youth (4 boys, 7 girls) between the ages of 13 and 24 from lower socioeconomic areas in Toronto participated in life history interviews while seven adults (4 men, 3 women) who acted as an SFD program facilitator or director were interviewed to share their childhood sport experiences. Interviews were narratively analyzed. Six narratives resulted from the analysis, each illustrating inner/personal development and outer network/social development: The Utilizer used sport for personal development and to form a network leading to goal achievement; the Escapee used sport as a therapeutic tool and to build a network of support; the Socialite used sport to build interpersonal skills and a social network; the Support seeker gained confidence in practicing help-seeking behaviour while building a network of support; the Pressured by Sport experienced performance anxiety demotivating them from forming healthy social bonds; and the Exploited felt used by sport as their fees were collected to fund others' participation. These narratives can be used by facilitators and program developers to optimize the developmental outcomes of SFD programs for side-lined youth.

Acknowledgments: Sekou Gregg, Keren Annor, Ben Arhens, Michelle Campbell, Ose Omorogie