The benefits of sports-based positive youth development programmes in low socioeconomic areas: Perceptions of participants, parents, programme leaders and school teachers
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Young people go through a period of time involving complex physical, mental, emotional and social development (Curran & Wexler, 2017). This period of transition to adulthood includes a number of developmental changes, giving opportunities for both positive and negative changes to occur (Curran & Wexler, 2017). This development period provides an opportunity to foster positive developmental outcomes to ensure youth are healthy and thriving members of society (Curran & Wexler, 2017). This strengths-based approach is known as Positive Youth Development (PYD), viewing young people as ‘resources to be developed’ rather than ‘problems to be solved’ (Bean & Forneris, 2016; Holt, Neely, Slater, Camire, Cote, Fraser-Thomas, MacDonald, Strachan & Tamminen, 2017; Lerner, Lerner, Almerigi, Theokas, Phelps, Gestsdottir, Naudeau, Jelicic, Alberts, Ma, Smith, Bobek, Richman-Raphael, Simpson, Christiansen, & Von Eye, 2005). PYD has been utilised to investigate young people’s involvements in a number of sports and non-sporting programmes (Holt et al., 2017; Neely & Holt, 2014). To contribute to this evolving body of sports-based PYD literature, this study aimed to investigate the perceived benefits of sports-based PYD programmes in low socioeconomic areas. More specifically, the research questions explored the perceptions of four key stakeholder groups, the youth, their parents (or guardians), the programme leaders and the youth participant’s school teachers. The social constructionist viewpoint recognises knowledge as being created through experiences (Thorne, Kirkman, 1997). This socio-cultural approach to investigating insights into PYD programmes, the uniqueness of a sports environment together with the limited research in this area, supports the need to consider a multiple stakeholder perspective in order to understand the perceived benefits of sports-based PYD programmes. To gain in-depth understanding and explore individuals’ experiences, views and perceptions of the benefits of a sports-based PYD programme, a qualitative, interpretive descriptive approach was adopted in this study. Data was collected from four stakeholder groups through semi-structured in-depth individual interviews that revealed rich and insightful knowledge. These interviews revealed a number of positive outcomes from youth participating in the sports-based PYD programme. The interviews also highlighted a number of consistencies among the positive outcomes identified by each of the different stakeholder groups. The significant positive outcomes identified in the research project included the importance of positive adult-youth relationships, the transferability of the life skills taught and the opportunity to participate in a sports-based PYD programme. The knowledge gained and the lessons learnt help provide better understandings of the impact sports-based PYD programmes have on youth. The multiple stakeholder perspective utilised in this study provided another layer of rich in-depth understanding of the influence the programme has. As a result, these insights can be utilised to inform funding agents and organisations that operate in a sports-based PYD environment.