Extracurricular activities and positive youth development: Examining how different patterns of involvement in sport and non-sport activities may impact development


In order to prepare students for adulthood and responsible citizenship, most high schools in Canada offer extracurricular activities to foster the development of a wide range of competencies. Past research has shown that participation in extracurricular activities, including sport, can help students develop a variety of skills and stay engaged in school which together can facilitate a successful transition to adulthood. However, additional research in this area is warranted. First, little research has examined the impact of participating in a combination of extracurricular activities. Second, no research has specifically examined the relationship between extracurricular activities and developmental assets. Third, the large majority of studies to date have been conducted in the United States where the culture of the high school context, particularly for sport, is different than in Canada. The purpose of this study was to examine whether participation in a single or a combination of extracurricular activities in high school would indicate differences on measures of developmental assets and school engagement. Results from the MANCOVA examining developmental assets indicated significant differences across numerous subscales between youth involved in both sport and non-sport extracurricular activities compared to youth not involved in extracurricular activities. Furthermore, results also indicated differences on some of the subscales between youth only involved in sport compared to youth not involved in extracurricular activities. Results from the ANOVA analysis examining student engagement also showed that youth who participated in a combination of both sport and non-sport extracurricular activities scored significantly higher compared to youth not involved in extracurricular activities. Based on these results it is recommended that parents and adult leaders encourage and support students in their involvement in various extracurricular activities, including high school sport, to facilitate positive youth development.   

Acknowledgments: Ontario Federation of School Sport Associations