Increase Understanding of Factors that Affect Minority Adolescents’ Participation in Organized Sport Programs

by James H.

Youth in today’s society don’t play outside and aren’t nearly as active compared to older generations, although many children do participate in organized sports. Unfortunately, children from different ethnic backgrounds do not participate nearly as much. There are numerous benefits to being active in general from prevention of many diseases and ailments to reversing effects of other issues. Specifically youth involvement in sports can instill confidence, promote positive values, and improve academic, social, and physical skills (Mahoney, Larson, & Eccles, 2005; Mahoney, Lord, & Carryl, 2005; Olushola, Jones, Dixon, & Green, 2013). There are also many benefits related to physical health and mental health from reducing stress, allowing proper development through stimulation and play, and using energy by increasing their heart rates during the activities. Participation in sports improves physical and psychological health and decreases obesity levels among youth (American College of Sport Medicine, 2002; Kilpatrick, Hebert, & Jacobsen, 2002). Clearly there are many benefits but why don’t youth minority participate.

There are many after school programs with sports and a handful of organized sport associations in each town. Youth can go to not-for-profit organizations, churches, recreation facilities, outdoor playgrounds and fields to engage in organized sports. Studies have analyzed participation and results show socioecological factors – from exploring the psychological needs among youth participating in the program, looking at motivations of minority youth for participation, and exploring facilitators in youth program involvement. Youth need three basic psychological needs relatedness, autonomy, and competence. Relatedness means feeling a sense of belonging and connectedness. Autonomy means how the individual expresses himself through behavior. Competence means being useful, and being able to work within their social environment (Deci & Ryan, 2002). Motivation is what moves people. It allows us to conquer, and to overcome problems. According to Ryan and Deci (2000), individuals’ actions can be intrinsically or extrinsically motivated, or can lack motivation altogether – being amotivated. Intrinsic motivation means doing something for your own sake, extrinsic motivation is when you have a certain outcome in mind. Facilitators in youth participation are things which promote the formation of leisure and enhance participation. Sport participation facilitators that were identified in studies included personal agency; personality traits such as neuroticism, extraversion, conscientiousness, adventurousness, and risk-taking; and “virtually any personal attribute that influences the way an individual views the world and the opportunities it offers’ other personal attributes, which could be considered intrapersonal facilitators, include personal characteristics and abilities, self-perceptions, self-esteem, self-competence, interests, preferences, skill level, and goal orientation (e.g., Çaglar, Asçi & Deliceoglu, 2009; Sit & Linder, 2005; Stuntz & Weiss, 2009).

The goal of the study was to increase the authors’ understanding of factors that affect minority adolescents’ participation in organized sport programs. The study focused both on many needs and motivations that cause youth to participate in sport as well as facilitators which made their sport involvement possible. By focusing on both as well as those related to the social and physical environment, we were able to identify a range of unique factors that affect involvement in sport among minority youth.


  1. Stodolska, M., Sharaievska, I., Tainsky, S., & Ryan, A. (2014). Minority Youth Participation in an Organized Sport Program. Journal Of Leisure Research, 46(5), 612-634.



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2 Responses to Increase Understanding of Factors that Affect Minority Adolescents’ Participation in Organized Sport Programs

  1. I found your post very interesting! Thinking back at working with minority youth in a non-profit organization, was sometimes a struggle: ‘you didn’t know if they would come back the next day’. However, the director of this organization was very well psychological and sociological skillful and educated, she learned me a lot in working with minority youth. Reading your article I was thinking about how these theories could be applied, mostly the self-determination theory. From my experience, minority youth are especially looking for a sense of belongingness. Because they are minority, they are often a step behind the majority youth. They may look different, therefore face discrimination and bullying, which leads to being isolated from other youth. This could make them feel disconnected and less competent in life. The organization I worked with created a very safe and warm environment, but it didn’t stop there. Parents, schools, the community, everyone around the youth got involved. The director felt very close to the youth, because she wanted them to succeed in life. If something went wrong, she knew. If a child was crying, she was always available for comfort. She was very skilled to feel if an adolescent was capable of taking up certain tasks, like organizing an event, or training the dance team. Youth were asked to help organize activities, fundraising, and connect with their community. They were given age-appropriate tasks, and I saw a lot of initiative coming from the youth. Lastly, the director focused on long-term development. She developed a leadership, and career development program, which included very important skills for minority youth. Since, especially in the US, where I was volunteering, there is until today a lot of anti-black racism. Thank you for your article, I wish I could read more about the facilitators in youth participation, but I couldn’t find the articles, hope you could provide them!

    Lisette, V.

  2. jameshowie6 says:

    That’s an amazing experience and wonderful community, there definitely needs to be more individuals like that. I picked this article and subject because I’ve been doing a volunteer program with youth this semester, it is mostly children around the age of ten but these theories such as thee self-determination theory still apply. When we play games in the gym with them, some children will kind of stray away and not really be involved with activity, they still participate but aren’t really engaged. Whereas other children will be very attentive when you’re speaking and raise there hands for questions and contribute to the games we play. For instance there’s one child who shows a lot of leadership qualities when the leader is done explaining the game this child will whisper to the leader can I say something. Of course we allow the child to share their idea and they always alter, or change the game or teach us something new and the other youth really enjoy it. From my experience when youth show leadership it engages the rest of the group, and they tend to come together like a community. If some children stray away and are not as attentive like I mentioned earlier I’ve realized if you show them a bit more of attention and care they will play along and really enjoy the organized activities. Which really makes them feel connected and develops a great sense of belonging. Unfortunately there are some children and youth who are unresponsive to attention and would rather sulk and stare at the ground then do anything. I find this to be rare but it is a very difficult issue to combat. What have you learned helps children open up and participate when they are not interested and clearly do not want to even though the activity is healthy and fun.

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