Research on sport for youth development not reaching those who need it, study shows

Canadian-led research establishing that youth sport should be about building the whole person and not just the athlete needs to be more accessible if it is to find its way into the programming of the nation’s highest sport bodies, according to a new University of Alberta study.

“Research projects led by researchers across Canada have been producing some of the best findings in how to make youth sport a better place for kids,” said Kurtis Pankow, who is completing a PhD in positive youth development through sport. “But we found sport associations weren’t using it. That was when Nick (Holt, his supervisor) took a step back, reached out to other researchers and said, ‘I think we have to do something about this.’”

The research that was missing the mark, Pankow said, revolves around the idea that sport should be used to develop better people.

He explained that traditionally, sport and youth programs have looked at kids as problems to be fixed as opposed to strengths to be developed.

“The whole field of positive youth development arose from the idea that problem-free doesn’t mean fully prepared.”

And with almost 80 per cent of Canadian youth participating in some form of sport, Pankow adds sport is a really good venue to help prepare kids for the rest of their life.

“Whether you’re using research strategies or not, you have to be conscious that that is something you’re trying to do,” he said.

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