Recreation and Sport Studies

Studying, Experiencing and Facilitating Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport through Wellness and Physical Activity

Youth Programs & Positive Childhood Development

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Positive development effects that emerge out of participating in a recreation or sport program include:

  • Life skills
  • Affiliations
  • Self-concept
  • Physical development
  • Psychological/emotional development
  • Social development
  • Intellectual development

Recreation and Youth Development by Peter Witt & Linda Caldwell (2005) states that research has found that there are also therapeutic benefits related to participation. For example, play and participation therapy have been used in situations involving children who are homeless, who have experienced violence, who were abused or sexually traumatized, or who lived in situations where their parents were substance abusers. This therapy often helps children restore feelings of normalcy and provides them with a sense of security. Some children will also use participation in programs or sports as an escape from their daily lives.

How can we improve?

Below are two different approaches/programs that are currently being implemented in the United States.

A study by Falcao, Bloom, and Gilbert (2012) investigated Coaches’ Perceptions on the Impact of a Coach-Training Program designed to promote youth developmental outcomes.

The Mastery Approach to Coaching (MAC) program was explored and it appears that youth sport coaches can learn how to teach positive youth developmental outcomes through small-scale intervention studies or informal learning situations (e.g., experiential learning). The study found that children who were in youth development sport programs where coaches followed the steps they learned in the MAC program scored higher on 5’c’s of positive youth development which are; competence, confidence, connection, character, and caring  is defined as an individual’s perceptions of his or her abilities in specific areas. The program is a 75 min workshop with six training coaches, that integrates principles of positive coaching with achievement goal theory.


Thus, the coaches learn how to effectively:

1. Focus on mastering skills:rather than beating an opponent.

2. Adopt a positive approach to coaching: that encourages the use of reinforcement and help to strengthen the team environment.

3. Establish norms: that promotes and supports a positive environment.

4. Involve athletes:in the decision-making process regarding the team.

5. Self-monitor their behaviors: to help encourage fulfillment to the positive approach guidelines.

We believe coaches should want to be there to teach children not only about the sport, but also these crucial life skills

Another article, Physical Activity and Positive Youth Development: Impact of a School-Based Program by Madsen, Hicks and Thompson (2010), looked at a program based out of San Francisco area called PLAYWORKS. It ran in the United States school system and focused on getting children more active during school hours. The schools were generally low-income where children are less likely to get adequate amounts of physical activity at home for various reasons. This experiment looked at 158 low-income schools for a duration of 6 years and focused on promoting physical activity and the development of youth though structured play. The study found that children who were exposed and participated in the PLAYWORKS program were more likely to have higher level scores in various aspects of life such as physical activity, meaningful participation in school, problem solving skills, and personal goals and aspirations (Madsen, Hicks & Thompson, 2010). PLAYWORKS website is a resourceful tool for working with children in the future.



Falcao, W., Bloom, G., & Gilbert, W., (2012). Coaches’ Perceptions of a Coach Training Program Designed to Promote Youth Developmental Outcomes. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 24(4), 429-444.

Madsen, K. A., Hicks, K. & Thompson, H. (2010). Physical activity and positive youth development: Impact of a school-based program. Journal of School Health, 81, 462-470.

Witt, P. A., & Caldwell, L. L. (2005). Recreation and youth development. Pennsylvania: Venture Publishing, Inc.


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