by James W.
The value of sport and recreation participation is far reaching. Its benefits can be seen in a variety of formats such as improved mental and physical health and increased social and life skills (Yen-Chun, Chalip, & Green, 2016). However, an aspect that is often overlooked is the effects that sport and recreation participation has on youth delinquency and crime prevention.
Youth represent a very complex population and there are many factors that can have great and long lasting effects on their livelihood. In Canada, youth account for roughly 23% of the population (Statistics Canada, 2010). More specifically, 9.5% (634,000) of all children aged 18 and under live in low-income families in Canada (Statistics Canada, 2011). According to Hardaway, McLoyd, and Wood (2012), low-income is positively correlated with increased crime and delinquency among youth and young adults. Conversely, there are several mitigating factors in response to youth delinquency and crime; this article will focus on sport and recreation as a positive intervention tool.
Sport & Recreation Participation & Delinquency
A study by Veliz and Shakib (2012) incorporated over 1200 public high schools, and examined the relationship between school sports participation rates and in-school delinquent behavior. The results from the study indicate that higher sport participation was related to lower delinquency rates (Veliz & Shakib, 2012). Many studies cite Dr. Travis Hirshi’s social control theory as a theoretical explanation for the benefits of sport and recreation interventions on crime and delinquency (Veliz & Shakib, 2012). The theory, in brief, states that humans are naturally deviant, however, the bonds we have with various social institutions (school, sports, family and friends) restrain us from committing deviant acts (Veliz & Shakib, 2012). If a person commits a criminal or delinquent act, the punishment is most often removing access to these social institutions. Therefore, augmented participation in sport and recreation opportunities increases the strength of certain bonds, and can in turn reduce an individual’s propensity to commit a deviant act (Veliz & Shakib, 2012).
With that being said, it is important to provide programming that is tailored to youth needs. All to often, we implement programs for youth without consulting them first; their voices often go unheard. Youth voice is the notion of giving youth autonomy and respect by listening to their opinions and including them as stakeholders (Shannon-McCallum, 2016). Giving youth the right to share their opinion is not sufficient enough, their judgment must be taken into serious consideration when implementing any sort of programming aimed at their demographic (Shannon-McCallum, 2016).
Although I never had any issues with crime and excessive delinquency growing up, many of my peers did. I did, however, witness first hand the positive influence of sport and recreation participation can have on this issue. My football team in high school is a perfect example of this as we had several students on the team who had a history of crime and other behavioural issues in school. Nevertheless, playing football had a tremendous positive impact on them. Our coach was a great role model who made every effort possible to steer members of the team onto the right path. I saw a lot of students turn their life around simply due to the fact of playing sports.
It is important to understand that we as recreation students can have a positive impact on the people around us. The programs we chose to implement have the potential to be extremely beneficial to our communities and foster positive youth development in a variety of ways. We have to listen to the youth, and allow them to be stakeholders in this movement. With that we can ensure youth will live crime free lives and enjoy life to the fullest.
Hardaway, C., McLoyd, V., & Wood, D. (2012). Exposure to Violence and Socioemotional Adjustment in Low-Income Youth: An Examination of Protective Factors. American Journal Of Community Psychology, 49(1/2), 112-126.
Shannon-McCallum, C. (2016). [Power Point Slides] Retrieved from https://lms.unb.ca/d2l/le/content/114625/viewContent/1185525/View
Statistics Canada. 2010. “Annual demographic estimates: Canada, provinces and territories” (Catalogue no. 91-215-X). Ottawa, ON: Statistics Canada.
Statistics Canada. 2011. Income in Canada. (Catalog 75-202-X), Ottawa, ON: Statistics Canada.
Veliz, P., & Shakib, S. (2012). Interscholastic Sports Participation and School Based Delinquency: Does Participation in Sport Foster a Positive High School Environment?. Sociological Spectrum, 32(6), 558-580.
Yen-Chun, L., Chalip, L., & Green, B. C. (2016). The Essential Role of Sense of Community in a Youth Sport Program. Leisure Sciences, 38(5), 461-481