by Natalie G.
When you were a youth, did you feel like you had a voice? Or have you ever worked with youth and allowed them to voice their ideas/opinions? To begin, “youth voice lacks a consistent conceptualization, it ideally refers to the process by which youth not only have the opportunity to communicate but are exposed to adults who value and respect their message (Weybright, Trauntvein & Deen, 2017, p.3). Letting youth have a voice leads to positive youth development outcomes such as helping them feel valued, developing autonomy and identity, articulating ideas to others and helping them learn to work with adults (Shannon-McCallum, 2017). There is not much literature on the benefits of youth voice; however, research by Weybright et al. (2017) supports how coaches and recreation leaders can create youth-adult partnerships which relate to helping youth learn to work with adults.
From a personal experience, I have worked with youth for two summers and the leaders and I would ask the kids at the beginning of program what they wanted to do for the summer. With their input, it helped us create exciting schedules with lots of field trips and games for them, as well as, created a youth-adult partnership. Giving them the voice for their summer made the children look forward to program each week. On the other hand, this was not the case when I grew up in a daycare. Our voices were not heard. We were scheduled with lots of structured play and field trips, but never given the chance to express what we, as children, really wanted to do and never created that youth-adult partnership.
Youth-adult relationships are about youth learning to work with adults and “Prior research indicates youth who participate in a youth-adult partnership experience greater empowerment, psychological agency, and community connectedness while developing problem-solving, and decision-making skills “ (Weybright et al., 2017, p.4). Within recreation and sport, this outcome can be achieved if coaches and recreation leaders give youth the experience to express their thoughts or opinions into planning while youth achieving greater empowerment, connectedness in their community and/or with coaches while gaining positive youth development outcomes. An example is “often coaches assign responsibilities to certain players (i.e., team captains) to organize and run portions of practice or team functions. Soliciting increased involvement from team members and allowing them to be more involved in the decision-making process can lead to greater individual empowerment, psychological agency, and a stronger connection to the team” (Weybright et al., p. 11). This engagement the coach has created has produced positive youth development outcomes such as identity and work with others.
Now that youth programs and camps are realizing research about youth voice is beneficial to the youth, it is starting to become more common in camps and programs, including the one I worked for the past two summers. For the future, I believe it is best to make sure when you are working with youth to give them a chance to voice themselves to achieve positive youth development outcomes.
Shannon-McCallum, C. (2017). Youth Voice. RSS 3223
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.