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The potential of sports for socially vulnerable youth

woensdag, 28 maart, 2012 - 18:00
Campus: Brussels Humanities, Sciences & Engineering campus
Faculteit: Physical Education and Physiotherapy
Reinhard Haudenhuyse

Sports are often recognized as an opportunity to engage socially vulnerable youth
in a leisure context and not just in terms of participation in sports activities, but
across a range of issues, including education, employment and training, community
leadership and healthy lifestyles However, how sports practices can effectively
contribute in creating such broader outcomes stays unclear and has been dealt
with much scepticism. The purpose of the dissertation was to gain a better insight
in how sports practices working with socially vulnerable youth could effectively
generate wider social outcomes. The dissertation is built around three main chapters.

Regarding working with socially vulnerable youths in a sports setting, it was
described in the first chapter that the knowledge of the specific situation of
youths, a good command of sports organizational and didactical skills and understanding
of the wider processes of social vulnerability would assure some success
in organizing sport-plus programs that could create an added value beyond mere
participation. By positioning the framework of social vulnerability, we were able to
identify specific coaching and organizational processes that could be researched
in different sports settings.

Drawing on the findings from the field research conducted in a Flemish (northern
region of Belgium) sports (boxing) project, the second chapter critically discusses
coaching dimensions with regard to perceptivity towards youth’s well-being,
motivational climate, authority relationships, socio-psychological competences,
the sports model and working towards competence. Apart from these socio-pedagogical
coaching dimensions, this chapter also describes how the cultural capital
of coaches interacts within the context of the sport-plus initiative.

Whereas the second chapter has mainly focused on how sports are delivered, the
third chapter looks at the experiences young people have had in the context of
the selected sport-plus practice, with the purpose of better understanding the
potential of sports for socially vulnerable youth. From the field research it was
found that boxing, within the setting of the sport-plus practice, meant different
things for different participants. Considering the unique personal and situational
characteristics of young people that were involved in the study, it could be reasonable
expected that participating in the boxing initiative, generated unique
experiences, which had divergent outcomes. The dissertation concludes with
implications for policy and practice and formulates future research pathways.

The dissertation was made possible thanks to the support of the Flemish
Government (Steunpunt voor Beleidsrelevant Onderzoek Cultuur, Jeugd en Sport).