Promoting a Positive Environment for Youth Development: Traditional Sports vs. Martial Arts

by Jake M.

Sport and recreation have served as tools to aid in youth development for many years. Particularly, team sports are most often chosen for children by their parents to engage them in physical activity that promotes social development through teamwork and build confidence in their physical abilities. However, I believe that martial arts can offer even greater youth development when compared with traditional sports due to the climate of respect that goes along with training in various combat sports.

It has been my experience in several team sports that I was not always given the opportunities to develop specific skills in positions on the team that I was interested in. For example, my first couple of years playing baseball, I had really wanted to be a pitcher, but because the team already had several other skilled pitchers, I was not given the time to develop my own skills in practice. My time spent training in various martial arts, however, was very different. I believe this was largely due to the close relationships developed with training partners as we worked together to develop every skill required to advance.

In a recent study David Hortiguela noted how martial arts could benefit a higher percentage of participants than traditional sports as they “are most often practised by peers requiring close collaboration and respect between both members so that learning takes place without risks” (Hortiguela, 2017). In my opinion, the level of collaboration between training partners in martial arts is much greater than traditional sports, and the fact that all participants work together to achieve common individual goals supports a more positive environment for youth development. In his study, Hortiguela (2017) compared two teaching units of martial arts and two units of traditional sports and found that the martial arts “teaching units improved students’ attitudes toward violence and generated a higher peer motivational climate than, and similar fun as two teaching units of popular sports such as football and basketball”.

I would have to agree with these findings as I know myself that I had much more respect for the art of combat and a better understanding and attitude toward violent behaviors once I began training in martial arts. I can also attest to the peer motivational climates being much more positive in martial arts culture, whereas in traditional sports I often witnessed many participants being bullied and put down based on their skill level. I can’t recall a single instance in my martial arts training where I witnessed any sort of bullying.

Both traditional sports and martial arts boast a wide range of potential benefits that can promote positive youth development. While parents most often choose traditional sports to promote their child’s development, martial arts should be considered as they offer the same benefits as well as a much more positive environment, better peer relationships, and may develop better attitudes towards violence. Martial arts training also encourages participants to master all of the skills in their sport which can promote higher levels of engagement in the activity, higher self-efficacy, and a more involved and enjoyable experience.


Hortiguela, D., Gutierrez-Garcia, C., Hernando-Garijo, A. (2017) . Combat versus team sports: The effects of gender in a climate of peer-motivation, and levels of fun and violence in physical education students. Journal of Martial Arts Anthropology, 17(3), 11-20. DOI: 10.14589/ido.17.3.2

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Over-involved Parents and Youth Development

by Kendra U.

The term parental involvement is defined as “the amount of time a parent spends in activities with the child, and participation in relevant areas of the child’s life” (Fagen, 1996). A strong parent-child relationship has one of the greatest impacts on children (Hendley, 2004). Fagen (1996) noted that high school students who have a positive relationship with their parents develop higher self-esteem and confidence levels compared to those students who do not have a positive relationship with their parents. Parents can play a highly facilitative and positive role in sport or leisure career development for youth. However, hence the word can; it is not always positive. Sometimes parents are over-involved in a child’s sport, and there can be predicaments with this.

When parents are over-involved in their children’s activities/sports, youth’s development and acquisition of assets that help them thrive are put at risk. Youth may feel pressure from their parents, which could lead to less enjoyment in the game because it causes them stress just to play. Youth may also develop a low self-esteem if their parent is constantly nagging them to do better. If parents do not let their children think for themselves or make their own decisions – it may simply push the children away from the sport completely and lead to potential drop out.

In a study done by Kristy Leigh Hendley (2004), she examined the effects of parental involvement on a child’s enjoyment and success in a given sport. 189 adolescents aged 11-19, along with 108 of their parents were surveyed. The survey was used to gauge both the child’s and the parent’s separate perceptions of the parent’s involvement in the child’s sport. As a result, 15% of parents admitted to the statement, “I expect my child to play better than he/she usually plays.” Around 35% of kids agreed with the statement, “My parents expect me to play better than I usually play.”

It was also stated that parents do not perceive themselves to be critical of their child’s skills; however, children perceive that their parents are, indeed, critical of the way they play sports. Parents indicated that they do not get upset after their child’s team loses a game; however, children perceive that their parents do get upset when their team loses a game. Parents perceived that they do not put a lot of pressure on their children to do well in sports; however, the children once again, perceived that their parents do, indeed, put a lot of pressure on them. Whether or not the parents think that they are criticizing, pressuring or stressing out their child in sports, it was shown in Hendley’s (2004) article, that they most likely are.

Parent involvement is crucial in sports because if a parent is disinterested in their game, the child may lack necessary instrumental and emotional support at home that enables them to pursuit a sport or leisure career. I believe it is important to keep in mind that if you are going to continue to be over-involved in a child’s sport, you must be a constant positive support system. I was very fortunate growing up to have involved parents within my sports, to the preeminent extent. My mother and father supported me by driving/watching my games, always supporting my decisions in every sport I played, and they even coached several teams throughout my adolescent years.  Whether they were my coach or not, they always informed me when I needed improvement through positive encouragement. They knew I could do better and wanted to see me thrive for my own personal well-being, not theirs. In conclusion, I strongly believe it is critical to be involved in your children’s sports growing up; however, not to the extent where it makes a child feel negative about themselves.


Fagen, D. (1996). Relationship between Parent-Child Relational Variables and Child Test Variables in Highly Stressed Urban Families. (0009-4005). Retrieved November 11, 2017.

Hendley, K. L. (2004). Parent Involvement in Youth Sports. Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management Concentration: Sports Management. Retrieved November 10, 2017.

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Youth Resiliency in a Sport, Recreation, and Leisure setting

by Brandon B.

Youth in recreation, sport, or leisure activities get to learn many qualities through playing. Resiliency is one quality that they learn about and eventually learn to master. When I played atom hockey, I would cry after each game we lost. This was something as a young kid that I did not realize was a part of being resilient – that their would always be a next time and that not only would I improve, but my whole team would eventually improve.

Hurtes and Allen (2001) reference Rutter’s (1990) definition that resiliency is “positive pole of the ubiquitous phenomenon of individual difference in people’s responses to stress and adversity (p. 181)”. It was not until I got into junior high sports teams that I learned to be resilient. I am not the only example of this, I have seen youth in physical education classes where they are getting frustrated at the activity because they either do not understand the rules or they do not receive enough support. They reacted like I did. “Resiliency appears to be a useful framework that identifies key skills, attitudes, and abilities that empower youth to successfully negotiate life’s challenges and thereby, promote positive growth and development” (Hurtes & Allen, 2001). As these authors have mentioned, it is about making sure youth programs promote resiliency and teach youth how to bounce back and to be positive when the going gets tough.

Lastly, through these programs, youth will be able to take these skills that they have learned and be able to apply them to everyday adult experiences. As a student who aims to get into teaching later on, I feel I would be able to relate and give any information or support needed so that youth going through resiliency issues will not need to be labelled as the “crybaby” or “sore loser”. I had to deal with those labels. I did not like them, but I know from personal experience that I would be able to work with youth to get through these rough patches in their life.

Six years of volleyball has taught me a lot about resiliency, or at least given me a metaphor. You could be losing to the point where the opposing team only needs one more point to win; however, the game is not done until they get that one point. You still have a chance. University, like volleyball, has taught me that I can get a terrible grade and still pass with a good mark. Resiliency sticks with you, even if youth do not realize that is the skill they are learning. I think the important things for youth in terms of building resilience is the right amount of stress along with balanced coping strategies. If youth are able to begin mastering these aspects, then I believe that they will be able to face anything in their near and distant future. Lastly, resiliency can provide many opportunities other than trying new things. Through coping techniques, youth may experience that making new friends or building those adult relationships can really help them grow as a person overall and speaks to the character that they are.


Hurtes, K.P and Allen, L.R (2001) Measuring resiliency in youth: the resiliency attitudes and skills profile.

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Sport Offers More Than Just a Game When Considering Youth Development

By: Marcus. M

Often times when we consider sport, we tend to believe that sport is just a game. A game that consists of two teams playing each other or in individual sports two players competing against each other. In sport the goal is to determine an outcome in which there is an ultimately one winner and a loser, but there is so much more to sport than just winning or losing a game. Sport should be portrayed in way more ways than just a game. Sport is an opportunity for youth to develop important life skills and life lessons that will help them in their future.

Sport participation provides youth with important skills, skills such as healthy competition, social skills and work ethic. Healthy competition is very important to understand, especially in a world where competition is relevant in just about anything you try and accomplish. Sport provides an opportunity to compete on a regular basis, allowing for youth to become more comfortable with a competitive atmosphere.

Another skill that sport provides for youth to develop is socialization with others. I know from personal experiences of playing sports, that just being surrounded by coaches and teammates everyday goes a long way in building social skills. Social skills are very important in your adult life especially when considering the work world and the dating world, being able to socialize and do it comfortably is a skill that could be very beneficial.

The last skill I’ll discuss is work ethic. In sport to get better at your craft you have to put the work in. Children often times don’t want to do things that are tough or challenging for them. They would rather just do the easier things or the more enjoyable things.  Coaches and teammates have to hold each other accountable when it comes to work ethic. They have to preach the importance of effort opposed to results. If sport leaders help youth understand that, the more likely youth will become to open to the idea of working hard. Whether it be practice or workouts, sport allows for youth to understand the effectiveness and importance of work ethic and the younger you realize that the more prepared you’ll be later on in life.

The biggest benefit in sport, from a personal perspective, is the opportunity to be free and just live in the moment. When shaping the future of youth, it is important for there to be an activity or activities that benefit youth, but also that don’t take away from kids being kids.  Many youth have their own struggles whether it be school issues or family issues, sport allows for youth to get away from all that and simply just be a kid.  Sport provides a safe and enjoyable environment that succeeds far more than just a game in which there is plenty of valuable lessons are learned.


21 Life Lessons Kids Learn Through Youth Sports (2017) Retrieved from:

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Substance Abuse in Youth

by Carson M.

As youth become older, they are exposed to an increasing number of factors that can negatively affect their development through sport and leisure. One of the main factors that influenced drop out in older youth’s participation in sport in my community was the use and exposure to alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Growing up, I experienced a large number of my friends drop out of sports that they once found so much enjoyment and overall benefit from because they made the choice to go out drinking on the weekends instead. As early teenagers, my friends had very little knowledge on the long-term effects that these choices would have on them and I feel as though they changed for the worse because of it. Aside from the negative health effects that can be caused from substance abuse, they were also putting themselves at a disadvantage in development of social skills, self-worth as well as meaningful relationship development with peers and adult figures that come with the participation in sports.

In a study completed by Wade-Mdivanian (2016), it was found that after youth attended a summer conference that focused on substance prevention, a significant change was found in relation to improved knowledge of alcohol, tobacco and other drug, risks, attitudes toward use, self-efficacy, perceptions of leadership and future participation and involvement. Although some of the facts show a decline in youth usage (such as cigarette smoking) it has also been identified that the use of drugs and alcohol has been consistently rising. A study completed in the US reported that over a third (35.8%) of all youth surveyed reported having used an illicit drug during their lifetime and nearly half (48.4%) of the youth participants identified as having used alcohol. With these staggering numbers being found I believe that it is necessary to address this problem early within youth and educate them on the risks associated with these substances before they can stumble upon them on their own.

By teaching youth at a young age that drugs and alcohol are bad for their health, it could give them a reason to say no and provide them with knowledge on why this is the right choice to be making. I remember as a kid being offered various drugs and alcohol at sporting events, and I always felt confident in declining in response because I was educated by my parents as to why these things were bad for me and the negative effect that they could impose on the rest of my life. By implementing programs to educate youth on the effects of substance abuse, youth will feel empowered as they will be educated on the matter and have the ability to influence the outcome of their own life and events through the choice of making good decisions.


Wade-Mdivanian, R., Anderson-Butcher, D., Newman, T. J., Ruderman, D. E., Smock, J., & Christie, S. (2016). Exploring the long-term impact of a positive youth development-based alcohol, tobacco and other drug prevention program. Journal Of Alcohol & Drug Education60(3), 67-90.

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The Effects of Sport on Youth Self-esteem

by Mackenzie M.

Self-esteem is an element that’s plays a crucial role in youth development and provides a foundation for youth to foster and build several physical and mental skills. In an article by Cronin and Allen (2015), self-esteem is regarded as “a person’s evaluation of, or attitude toward, him- or herself” (p.64). Self-confidence, self-efficacy, and self-esteem are all similar concepts that can be positively or negatively affected by sport and coaches; therefore, it is key that coaches provide a supportive and safe environment for youth.

Sports have the ability to strengthen youth’s confidence through positive support, social interaction, team contribution, and skill development. An article in the Journal of Human Sport & Exercise solidifies the fact that girls and boys who participate in individual or team sports competitively have greater self-esteem. Having this greater level of self-esteem facilitates the success of youth in high-end sports and the competitive nature of these sports in turn, enhances self-esteem (D’Anna, Rio, & Paloma, 2015). Sports provide youth with a sense of purpose and allow youth to feel like an asset, which contributes to positive self-confidence. Sports also keep youth active and healthy; this supports a positive body image, which in turn supports their level of self-confidence.

Coaches play a critical role in the development of self-esteem in youth. Youth value coaches’ opinions and feedback; therefore, it is essential that coaches provide constructive feedback, which players can use to grow and expand their skills. I believe simply telling a child they are doing well or are not doing well provides no guidance towards improving and building self-efficacy. If a player is doing well, specific techniques should be highlighted in which the child is excelling, and suggestions should be provided on how they improve in areas that they are struggling. An article written by Cronin and Allen encourages coaches to adopt an autonomy-supportive coaching technique as it correlates with the well being of kids in sports (Cronin & Allen, 2015). According to a study conducted, skill development was found to be significant in raising self-esteem, which allowed the candidates to attain an elevated perception of their well being (Ivanna, 2016).

Social interaction is another main component of team sport. Having friends on a team and feeling included can help stimulate self-esteem. It allows kids to feel supported by their peers, feel included, and feel more comfortable with the environment of the sport. This limits the fear that youth have about leaving their comfort zone and failing when trying new skills. At a young age, a large portion of time can be spent in sports; therefore, it’s important for youth to be surrounded by supportive team members who respect each other and encourage each other. An article published in the Sport Psychologist Journal, reiterates that a connection is present between youth self-esteem, social acceptance, and social skills (Cronin & Allen, 2015). With past experiences playing competitive hockey, I’ve found it extremely discouraging when there is a lack of team cohesion and support. Although team performance can be independent of how well team members get along, it is extremely difficult to have a high level of self-esteem when you don’t feel valued by other players on the team. When players discourage others and create social anxiety amongst the team, the focus shifts from the actual game to the social issues and players lose sight of their physical abilities. Social relationships are a huge part of kid’s lives and carry a huge weight; therefore, having poor relationships with team mates can contributes to low self-esteem regardless of youth’s skill in the sport.

Youth are vulnerable to their surroundings; therefore, coaches and team leaders must work hard to ensure that they are providing an environment in which youth feel encouraged, supported, purposeful, and significant. Many youth today lack self-confidence simply because at one point in their lives someone discouraged them in an activity or school and they haven’t been able to develop the skills to overcome this negative view of themselves. When youth possess confidence, they are more motivated, determined, and passionate about sports and are more likely to enjoy the sport they participate in.


Cronin, L. D., & Allen, J. B. (2015). Developmental Experiences and Well-Being in Sport:   The Importance of the Coaching Climate. Sport Psychologist29(1), 62-71.

D’Anna, C., Rio, L., & Paloma, F. G. (2015). Competitive sport and self-concept in
adolescent. Journal Of Human Sport & Exercise, 10, S425-S429.

Ivana, M. (2016). The promotion of wellbeing in adolescent middle school students: High
intensity communication and self-esteem in school organized sports. Ovidius University Annals, Series Physical Education & Sport/Science. Movement & Health, 16, 555-563.


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Important Non-Parental Adults (INAs): Coaches and Youth Development

by Jordan M-A

Everyone in this class seems to have somebody they can identify as an Important Non-parental Adult (INA) in their life. I didn’t know the term INAs, but I knew the importance of coaches and this greatly helped me when I started coaching myself because I always kept in mind that these youth will remember me forever and I want these youth to have positive memories of me like I have with my own coaches.

I am going to focus on a coaches’ influence on youth because my coach was a huge influence in my life. A parent can tell something to their child a million times and the child will ignore it or not take them seriously, but coaches can mention that same thing once and the athlete will take it to heart. INAs have the potential to change a youth’s life for the better. They offer outlets to the youth as positive role models possibly or simple as a person they can vent to. Even something we consider so insignificant as offering them a blanket can mean the world to youth. Coaches can create strong youth-adult relationships (Weybright, Trauntvein & Deen, 2017) which can cause the youth to have more positive views towards other adults. Coaches can help youth build a lot of positive assets as well as increase there resiliency.

In class we discussed how most coaches are volunteers and don’t necessarily have the proper training or background to properly train the youth. It is unfortunate for the youth that they are not getting the properly qualified adults as coaches possibly until they are in university. A coach who is passionate and cares about the team will probably be more beneficial to young teams versus a stronger coach who is distant and uncaring. As youth get older, they may need coaches who know the sport better, but I still believe they will need that coach they at the very least trust. From this blog, I hope to remind you how influential we can be in youth lives and to keep in mind they will likely remember you for their entire lives and that we should try to ensure it is a positive memory.


Shannon-McCallum, C. (2017). RSS 3223

Personal experience

Weybright, E., Trauntvein, N. & Deen, Mary K. (2017). “It Was Like We Were All
Equal”: Maximizing Youth Development Using Youth-Adult Partnerships. Journal of Park and Recreation Administration, 35(1), 5-19.

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