Fight Crime with Sport and Recreation

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).

Youth Voice

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).

Personal Anecdote

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 Psychology49(1/2), 112-126.

Shannon-McCallum, C. (2016). [Power Point Slides] Retrieved from                                

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 Spectrum32(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 Sciences38(5), 461-481

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5 Responses to Fight Crime with Sport and Recreation

  1. phanley8 says:

    I think that this is a really cool way to look at recreation and sports, that often isn’t thought of. I can relate to this, on a smaller scale, even with things as simple as “jigging class” in high school on a game day. If you didn’t go to school, or missed a class, you didn’t get to play in the game that evening. Not only do you have time to “think about what you’ve done” and deal with the consequences yourself, but you’re also letting your team down. Having sports can hold you accountable and keep you within a structure that doesn’t allow for misbehaving or making bad decisions. It holds true with even your friend group on the team, you’re most likely surrounded by similar minded people who are keeping out of trouble as well. It can make deviant behaviour seem like it “isn’t worth it”.

    Just like you had mentioned with players on your football team, sports are often a way that people turn themselves around with the guidance of a coach or the support of a team. How many stories do you hear about professional athletes saying that sports saved their lives? I think it’s super important to realize the impact that we as recreation students and eventually people working within the field, can have on youth and the positive development they can receive through programs we implement.

    Great post James!

  2. Darrion S says:

    Great post! I love the when sports are proven to be a positive force when it comes to staying ‘out of trouble’. Back when I was growing up my parents and their friends would joke that with all my practices I would not have the time to get into trouble with violent behaviors like they did. I identify with the football players you mentioned because my role in high school was highly influenced by my passion for wrestling. Sports programs outside of school give a community to youth that is not just focused on academics; even though school might not be what feels as important as school, a player must attend classes to be able to participate in practice and games.

    Speaking from personal experience and the observations of peers, when a student athlete is aware of their academic decisions affecting their love of sport, it can influence them to stay away from activities lie skipping school and excessive use of substances. While youth are developing, their need to have an identity becomes more prevalent. When included in positive communities of friends and teammates, youth have the opportunity to connect with an image of healthy living and athleticism. This may deter an individual to wants part in negative communities that do not support athletic achievements of an active role in being healthy.

    There are many needs when it comes to organizing a group of athletes, however I do think that youth voice is a great way to achieve a holistic program. Examples such as having a say in the progression of practices or the tournaments selected can bring on a lot of power and self esteem. I believe positive roles in sport that provide youth with a voice in their passion for sport builds their character and athleticism, leading to positive actions and voice within the community.

    Great post!

  3. fitzy08 says:

    Great work James! I feel strongly about your views on youth voice and the importance of providing programming that is tailored to youth needs. Growing up in the 80’s we didn’t really get much say in terms of what kinds of programs we wanted to be a part of or let alone what types of activities could be incorporated into them. We were never really consulted or asked what we wanted to do it was always adult directed and guided or we didn’t have the opportunity to experience free play like kids do today. I guess things were different back then compared to now with the excellent programming we have available for youth today. It is important that we listen to what they say because as you alluded to in your article and what we covered in this class, youth voice is the notion of giving youth autonomy and respect by listening to their opinions and including them as stakeholders. I completely agree with you here and it is important that educators and mentors incorporate these principles and ideas into all their programming that involve youth! You are right about listening to the youth when developing programming, and we must continue to do so, to allow them to be stakeholders in this movement. Only positive things will come from this and we must realize it and capitalize on youth initiated activities moving forward. Really enjoyed your article James, and excellent use of the academic literature to express your opinions here!

    – Terry F.

  4. Bestey31 says:

    Very interesting post James! I feel like you touched on many important points when looking at the potential benefits of sports and how it can fight crime. I especially like the brief explanation of social control theory as I am learning about it in another class and I believe it gives a strong insight to how we as individuals act when there are known punishments involved. As you mentioned, delinquent activities do decline through sport participation and I believe that is partly because of more time spent playing sport and also having an overall enjoyment in the activity that youth are involved it. I agree with you on the fact that youth need voice participation and have their opinions heard in order to foster positive development opportunities. If youth do not feel valued or treated like an asset, they are less likely to be engaged in the activity. In my own experience, simply having options such as music or art alternatives also provide an opportunity to decrease delinquent activities. Growing up I was involved in sports every season of the year and found that during the downtime I was drawn to deviant activities based on peer pressure and interests of the people I was surrounding myself with. Once involved in music, that same friend group and I had the opportunity for positive use of time while we satisfied our need for “something to do”. With the use of sports, youth can find social groups with common interests which also attribute to good development and increase positive values. I feel like you expressed many great ideas and supported them extremely well, great post James!

    – Brian E.

  5. Tom MacRae (Grad Student Comment) says:

    Reading you blog post brought a few things to mind. I too have come up through a sport system that have allow young participants with troubled trajectories to refocus their energy. The structure and values that recreation and sport provide, if delivered properly, are invaluable and a really selling feature for public sport-for-all. A great article to read on the values that can be gained from sport participations is:

    Chandler, T. J., & Goldberg, A. D. (1990). Building character through sports: Myth or possibility. Counseling & Values, 34(3), 169. Retrieved October 25, 2016

    In the article speaks about the number of physical, psychological, and social benefits youth can gain from sport competition if instituted properly.

    Overall I enjoyed your article James. Thanks for sharing, and best of luck in your academic studies in the field of Recreation & Sport.

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