Reinventing Youth Sport

By Ben L.

In the midst of the sports and leisure community lies an increasing and prevalent problem that has impacted the foundation of the future of sports. Participation and motivation has decreased exponentially. Between the increasing cost, early specialization, and unqualified/unmotivated coaching, there are alarming numbers being raised by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, Aspen Institute, and from the Department of Sports and Leisure at the University of Illinois.

In a participation study conducted within the US it shows that in 2008 almost 45% of children ages 6-12 played a team sport on a regular basis. Since then, those numbers have dropped to 37%. Tom Ferry explains, “Experts blame that trend on what they call an ‘up or out’ mentality in youth sports. Travel leagues, ones that can sometimes cost thousands of dollars to join, have crept into increasingly younger age groups, and they take the most talented young athletes for their teams. The children left behind either grow unsatisfied on regular recreational teams or get the message that the sport isn’t for them.”










Leadership is about influence, not authority. Leadership is about the impact, direction, and inspiration. Youth, at a base, are the mirror images of the world around them. Personally speaking, there is a strong belief in the guidance of nature vs. nurture. Take these words in spades as these root words dictate the belief that follows; you only get what you put into it.

Time and time again we are given the theatrics of sport through films, media, art, and even music. This constant theme represents one thing – sport is just entertainment to our adult population. The population’s average age in levels older than bantam are slowly increasing. Adults were nurtured in a society that places sport and leisure as closely related, whereas today’s youth culture has developed a stigmatized view on them respectively.

Efforts to improve youth sports involve the respect and maintenance of educated parents, coaches, and administrators, with the hope that education may change the outcome. Changes must be made to the structure and foundation before work towards our goal can be done. Humans, by nature, reject change as a means of comfort. I truly believe for us to achieve change, we must develop how sports and leisure are structured, and that may eliminate what we perceive as the underlying problem.


Chalip., L. et al. (2017).  Sport in Society: Cultures, Commerce, Media, Politics 2017 Vol.20        No.1 pp.30-46 ref.46. Web. https://www-cabdirect

Bogage, J. (2017). Youth sports study: Declining participation, rising costs and
unqualified coaches. The Washington Post.





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Bully Coaches in Youth Sport

by Hannah K.

Whether you have experienced it firsthand or not – negative coaching is a significant and serious issue within youth sport. Being a “bully coach” goes beyond just being a tough coach, the behaviour of coaches has been characterized by some critics as involving high levels of punitiveness and as creating an excessively stressful environment for child athletes. According to a study done by Smith, Zane, Smoll, and  Coppell (1983), their observations revealed that about half of the communications made by coaches were instructions, 17% were scolds following misplays, 8% were compliments while only 7% constituted for encouragement. In my opinion for a youth age group, this is unacceptable.  Youth coaches are critical to kids’ sport experiences – they can help mold a youth with potential into a star athlete or could have the opposite effect and completely lower their motivation and confidence. Having coaches that are constantly negative and saying demeaning things to their athletes is not the best approach to coaching – especially when it comes to youth who are in such a vulnerable point in their athletic career. Youth coaches have such a significant influence on the players first experience with sport. A good coach should keep kids’ interest in sports alive rather than deter them from sport. This can be done by offering words of encouragement and providing an overall positive youth development environment.

I have had a personal experience dealing with negative coaches throughout high school. The coaches overworked us, constantly yelled negative things from the sidelines, and called each player out for every mistake made on the field. Any time a misplay was made, the coach punished the players with excessive amounts of laps or drills. This coaching style left the players exhausted, embarrassed and even lose interest in the sport all together. I know that I felt I would almost rather be benched or just not go to practice because I didn’t want to have to deal with my coaches. In fact, many players on the team that year quit the sport altogether solely because of the negative coaching style creating an unenjoyable environment. As well as playing for bully coaches, I have also refereed sports and was able to observe negative coaching from another perspective. I see the youth withdraw and get less confident with every discouraging comment made or yelled rather from their coaches. Instead of focusing on the game and their abilities, the athletes would play the game based on trying not to make decisions their coaches would disprove of. This lack of confidence actually led to more mistakes being made.

There is a difference between constructive criticism and complete discouragement, and I think it is very important for youth coaches to have the proper training to be able to tell the difference between the two in order to encourage a positive youth development.


Smith, R. E., Zane, N. W., Smoll, F. L., & Coppell, D. B. (1983). Behavioral assessment in youth sports: coaching behaviors and children’s attitudes. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise,15(3), 208-214.

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Health Promotion of Youth through Outdoor Recreation

by Alec G.

Youth populations in current generations are spending more time in structured sport programs than ever before.  At the same time, we are seeing an increase in sedentary lifestyles in youth.  This is because youth often see sport and physical activity as something done only for health and not for leisure.  This is, in part, due to over-structured programs and packed daily schedules with no time for their own leisure.  Through the use of outdoor recreation and unstructured physical activity, I believe we will see a decrease in sedentary lifestyles in youth and the development of assets that will keep them active for life.

It is important that these outdoor recreation programs have a focus on unstructured physical activity.  By allowing youth to make their own decisions and play how they want, they will be creative and create their own new games.  This helps to teach the youth how to enjoy themselves with physical activity, while also developing leadership and teamwork skills.  In an article for Leisure Sciences, it was said that, “In stressful outdoor recreation experiences, participants have employed rationalization […] which is as an emotion-focused coping strategy” (Schuster, Hammitt, & Moore, 2006).  This is showing that skills learned through this form of recreation will be beneficial outside of the recreation context.  Youth will be developing assets that will help them deal with situations in their daily lives.  These assets are easier to build outdoors than they are inside a gym because of the open environment.  The youth have trees to use as goal posts or bases; rocks to climb over or hide behind; and hills to add or decrease challenge.  Each part of the environment can be used in multiple different ways.  This means that each time the youth play, it can be a new and exciting experience.

Though it may be controversial, outdoor recreation can increase the risk involved in physical activity.  The ground is not always flat; there are rocks and twigs on the ground and obstacles that can get in the way and be ran into.  Youth need to be exposed to risk at an early age in order to understand how much is too much, and how hard is too hard.  The participants may fall and hurt themselves, but they will learn and be more careful the next time.  This will help them adapt to new environments and situations quicker due to their new found safe decision-making skills.  They will understand the risks associated with new activities and will be able to participate in them more safely because of this.  Within the outdoor physical education context, teachers or youth leaders will be watching the youth to make sure the activities do not get too dangerous.  It is important to distinguish that they are not there to control the activities, but are instead there to moderate activities they may take control of risk factors away from the youth, causing more harm than good.

Outdoor physical education can give youth a more positive outlook on recreation as a leisure time activity.  This helps to keep them healthy while they are young, but also encourages them to be active for life.  The creative elements involved with unstructured outdoor recreation allows for ideas to grow and change as youth age.  This means that as their interests change, their physical activity preference will be able to change as well, instead of dissipate.  By engaging in risky recreation activities, youth learn to control the risk factors themselves.  They will understand how much risk is too much, what may hurt them or others, and how to engage in activities they enjoy while reducing the possibility for serious injury.  All of these aspect help to build confidence, independence, team work skills, a respect for the environment and a personal sense of value.  Because of this, Unstructured, outdoor recreation, is a key component to reducing sedentary behaviors and developing youth who will be active for life.


Schuster, R., Hammitt, W., & Moore, D. (January 01, 2006). Stress Appraisal and CopingResponse to Hassles Experienced in Outdoor Recreation Settings. Leisure Sciences, 28, 2, 97-113.

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The Importance or the Value Sport has on the Health of Youth Today

by Jamario G.

In Barbados, we do not understand the full value of sports. This has grave implications for the health of the population, for the society, the economy and most importantly the youth. This is a serious problem because of the incidence of non-communicable diseases which is becoming an overwhelming problem in Barbados.

Non-communicable diseases or NCD’s include obesity and diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.  The high prevalence of these health problems can lead to a significant impact on the economy as well as the youth of Barbados because of the universal health care that the government provides (, 2015).

Sports can have a positive impact on the economy of Barbados through the many jobs it can provide for its citizens and can also raise the level of awareness of sports in the country. In raising the level of awareness of sports, you can educate the youth on the benefits of sports – not only the health benefits, but the interpersonal skills they can develop. It teaches the boundaries and expectations, a sense of empowerment and responsibility and also a sense of achievement.

Sports have the potential to raise the Barbados economy to greater heights and give the citizens from the lower socio-economic groups the opportunities to move up the social ladder. Therefore, not understanding the value of sports has put tremendous strain on the economy. This is a major problem more now than ever because of the economic hardships that can be seen throughout the world. Statistics shows that obese 6 year olds have a 25% chance of becoming an obese adult and an obese 12 year old has a 75% chance of becoming obese as an adult. Further research showed that if one or both parents of the youth are obese, their chances of becoming an obese adult increases to 80% (Samuels, 2016).

Some of the benefits of being physically active in sports for the youth are that it improves cardiovascular health, aids in controlling diabetes, and helps with weight management.  Exercise lowers hypertension (high blood pressure), lowers cholesterol levels and improves blood circulation. Also, sports helps with development of the youth. Sports has the ability to give them a voice and a major sense of purpose.

Barbados has always placed priority on academic achievements. Education has been the driving force of mobility and improved life chances. This has had the consequence of a view of sports as a trivial. However, this distorts the value sport for a society, as well the economy. This lack of interest affects all those who live within the country but mainly the youth. This occurs as we grow up and our parents place more emphasis on academics than on sports. The education system of Barbados is also at fault. Physical Education is only allotted two 45 minute periods a week (Samuels, 2016). This is inadequate for the overall development of children especially in their formative years from birth to age 8 which is critical for cognitive, social, emotional and physical development. The World Health Organization did a Global Health Survey in 2012 on 26 schools in Barbados for childhood obesity. Results showed that shockingly 96% of elementary schools offer no physical educational programs which can lead to the children having poor coordination skills and reduced cognitive functions. Furthermore, inadequate physical inactivity at this stage means that the risk of being diagnose with NCD’s have increased.

In Barbados we have exceptional talent at the youth levels, but there are no national development programs for most of the sports in Barbados where athletes can further themselves in both facets of education and sport. Results have shown, especially in track and field, that Barbados has some of the best track and field athletes at the junior levels, but because there are no programs to develop and sustain these athletes, they quit the sport. Research has shown that through physical activity, the children and adults – as it relates to reduction of non-communicable diseases, development of motor-skills in children – can develop into  well-rounded individuals (World Health Organization, Health and Development through Physical activity and Sport, 2002). This can be achieved through the establishment of partnerships between schools and the public and private sectors to help promote and develop sports within Barbados. (2015, 06 14). Retrieved from

Samuels, A. (2016). Childhood Obesity in Barbados. Port of Spain Trinidad & Tobago: Chronic Disease Research Center .

World Health Organization. (2002). Health and Development through Physical activity and Sport. Switzerland: World Health Organization.


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Cyberbullying among young girls

by Melissa B.

Some of you probably know someone that has experienced cyberbullying or you even have experienced it yourself. I did not experience it myself, but I have seen it happening. It is one of the worst things that can happen to a child. The child’s confidence goes down quickly and depression is more likely to occur. Cyberbullying already occurred in my generation. A friend of my experienced cyberbullying and had some psychological issues because of it. At that moment, when the cyberbullying happened to her, I did not notice it. This has shown me that cyberbullying can happen to anyone. It is even a bigger problem in Generation Z. Cyberbullying can lead to anxiety, depression, substance abuse and a lot more (Kowalski et al., 2014). All these things will have a negative influence on the youth development, which is why it is so important to address cyberbullying and to prevent it.

The nature of abuse differs between genders. The abuse on girls is more about how they look or about what they need to wear. These aspects have more influence on the confidence of the girls and will lead to too much pressure on young girls. Girls are looking for validation and approval online. Nowadays Generation Z feel the urge to be social and to be up to date. I believe this will also make the girls insecure, because they compare themselves with others on social media; therefore, cyberbullying can even play a bigger role in their lives and we need to prevent this.

In the article of Marsh (2017), the leading UK child protection charity (NSPCC) said: ‘’It is up to both the government and social media companies to make the online world a safer place for our young people, while parents should also be having regular conversations with their children about staying safe online.’’I agree with the NSPCC, because it is not only social media that plays a role, the government can also reduce cyberbullying and especially the parents can help their children.

The role of organizations, family and support

There are two broad categories of developmental assets: external and internal assets. I think that the solution for the cyberbullying can lie with the organizations and sports. I believe that the government, parents, organizations and many scientists need to focus more on the external assets of the development of youth and cyberbullying. External assets are support, empowerment, boundaries and expectations, and constructive use of time. Generation Z youth are always using their smartphones, they hardly participate in any extracurricular activities and a lot of them exclude their parents from their lives. The 24/7 accessibility makes misbehaviour more likely to occur (Kowalski et al., 2014). I have trained children from ten to twelve years old and some of them had a smartphone and some did not. This caused exclusion from the whatsapp-group for some of the kids. Therefore, they felt less important than the other children. I think social media has a major impact on these children even at such a young age. On the other hand, this accessibility will also make it hard for the bullied people to escape from the bullying.  If we focus more on the activities without the smartphone, then these children can escape the cyberbullying world for a short period of time and the children, which do not have a smartphone, will not feel excluded. The girls will also develop some skills which are really important for them to become an adult and to prevent problem behaviour. These skills could be empowerment, so the girls feel more powerful and more important. This will eventually lead to a higher level of confidence. Therefore, I hope these girls got a lot more confidence and will not be bothered by the cyberbullying as much as they did.

My view is that family support and positive family communication is also important to consider with cyberbullying.  If we provide this to our youth, then they feel supported and feel cared for by their parents. They will eventually get fewer feelings of isolation, get a higher self-esteem and less problem behaviour. This self-esteem is the biggest issue with cyberbullying because these girls are confronted with how other girls look 24/7 and compare themselves with the girls on social media. I hope that these strategies can help to reduce the influence of social media on young girls.


Kowalski, R.M., Schroeder, A.N., Giumetti, G.W. &  Lattanner, M.R. (2014) Bullying in the Digital Age: A Critical Review and Meta-Analysis of Cyberbullying Research Among Youth. Psychological Bulletin, 140(4), 1073-1137.

Marsh, S. (2017, August 12) Half of the UK girls are bullied on social media, says survey. Retrieved October 9, 2017 from


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Let Them Have a Voice

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.


Personal Experiences
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.

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“I just don’t want to play”: A look at overweight youth and sport/recreation participation

By Victoria S.

In the eighth grade, I tried out and made the tier 1 ‘A’ school Soccer team. As a youth who didn’t fit in with the “typical” athletic body type I was hesitant to try out, but I persevered and gave my best effort in try-outs. However, the other girls on the team began to notice and point out to me, that I wasn’t fast enough, I wasn’t “good” enough. This left me feeling devastated, I already felt like I didn’t belong in this sport setting and my so called “team mates” weren’t helping.  I hated going to practice and playing in games. I found myself in a pit of self-hatred. It eventually got to the point that I asked the coach if I could switch to the ‘B’ team. A week later I was Captain of the school’s tier 2 soccer team, and I couldn’t have been happier. This leaves me with a question. Should we be forcing youth to participate in sport and recreation if it makes them feel terrible about themselves?

I think the first step is understanding what body image is. Body image is characterized through: body comparisons and criticisms, body values, aesthetic satisfaction and functional satisfaction. (Abbott, Barber, 2011). There has been a decrease in female participation in physical activity and sport. The daily recommended level of physical activity is 60 minutes a day for children (CSEP, 2015). Objective data collected states that: with self-reported data, the prevalence is even lower (for females), 24% among 13-year-old boys and 13% among girls (Currie et al., 2012). The theory behind this is that body image is a barrier for participation in sport. Potential for youth participation increases as their body image increases.

Unfortunately, some children who are overweight are stigmatized and experience greater social isolation and weaker friendship ties than their healthy-weight peers (Latner & Stunkard, 2003; Strauss & Pollack, 2003; Thompson et al., 2007) Youth who are overweight are more likely to be bullied or teased in the recreation and leisure setting. This deters overweight youth from participating in sport and recreation programming.  This also leaves overweight youth with negative views of sporting and recreation programs, leading to negative first experiences and ongoing negative experiences.

During these developmental stages, it is imperative that we provide youth with environments that foster growth and resiliency rather than environments that foster bullying and self-hatred. Sport and recreation programming and service providers need to create environments where bullying is not tolerated. All youth involved in a program should know that there are consequences for their actions and there is no excuse for putting other people down about their sport and recreation abilities. Recreation and sport leaders should make all youth in their programs aware that everyone operates at different skill levels. Recreation and sport leaders should promote, encourage and incorporate psychological safety in their sport and recreation environments. Coaches of sports teams should promote team bonding exercises outside of the game. Leaders in youth centers should implement anti-bullying policies. Recreation and sport professionals should focus on creating positive first experiences for overweight youth specifically. Creating positive first experiences for these youths will encourage them to return and engage in physical activity and continue to follow a healthy lifestyle.


Abbott, B. D., & Barber, B. L. (2011). Differences in functional and aesthetic body image between sedentary girls and girls involved in sports and physical activity: Does sport type make a difference? Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 12(3), 333–342.

Shannon, C. S. (2014) Exploring the leisure experiences of children who are overweight and obese: parent and child perspectives, Leisure/Loisir, 38(2), 139-163.

Currie, C., Zanotti, C., Morgan, A., Currie, D., de Looze, M., Roberts, C., Samdal, O., Smith, O., & Rasmussen, V.B. (2012). Social determinants of health and well-being among young people. Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) Study: International Report from the 2009/2010 Survey. Health Policy for Children and Adolescents. Copenhagen: WHO Regional Office for Europe.

Latner, J. D., & Stunkard, A. (2003). Getting worse: The stigmatization of obese children. Obesity Research, 11, 452–456.

Strauss, R. S., & Pollack, H. A. (2003). Social marginalization of overweight children. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 157, 746–752.

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