Benefits of Getting Hooked on Sports or the Arts: Examining the Connectedness of Youth Who Participate in Sport and Creative Arts Activities

By Bower, Julie M.; Carroll, Annemaree | International Journal of Child and Adolescent Health, April 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

Benefits of Getting Hooked on Sports or the Arts: Examining the Connectedness of Youth Who Participate in Sport and Creative Arts Activities


Bower, Julie M., Carroll, Annemaree, International Journal of Child and Adolescent Health


Introduction

Positive Youth Development researchers have suggested that when an individual's strengths or competencies are aligned with developmental resources across various contexts, the results are mutually beneficial for communities and the individual (1-5). Young people are viewed as valuable future resources to be nurtured for their immense potential through activities that encourage personal development (4). To measure positive youth development, researchers have conceptualised six core capabilities: competence (academic, grades, social, and physical); confidence (positive identity and self-worth); character (personal values, social conscience, values diversity, conduct of behaviour); caring (sympathy and caring); connection (to family, community, peers and school); and contribution (sense of purpose and service to others) (6, 7). By building skills in these areas and sustaining positive relationships between the individual and significant others within families, schools, peer groups, and communities, positive behaviours will be ensured (1, 4). ECAs, awards, and leadership roles provide appropriate platforms for the positive development of these capabilities, each in different ways.

It is known that involvement in extra-curricular activities (ECAs), receiving an award for achievement, or holding a leadership role have all been shown to have positive effects on levels of social and emotional wellbeing in adolescents (1,2). However the extent to which these accolades and achievements influence specific aspects of wellbeing such as awareness of self, connectedness to others, mindfulness of the needs of others (social responsibility) and level of participation in antisocial activities, has had limited attention. Long-term, participation in extracurricular activities is positively correlated with many indicators of success, such as educational attainment, income levels, and self-esteem (8). So how do ECAs, leadership roles, and awards benefit young people and school communities?

In this current study, extracurricular activities (ECAs) refer to both school-based and non-school-based structured activities enabling young people to pursue their interests such as sport, music, debating, or scouts. Participation in ECAs has a positive effect on many aspects healthy youth development as well as benefits to the communities in which these activities are embedded (9). For many young people, self-identity, social connectedness, and problem-solving life skills can be developed more easily in a setting, separate to school as the following paragraphs explain.

ECAs allow students the ability to form a sense of identity through exploring their strengths, preferences, and creativity (9). For youth who are disengaged from school, the ability for self-expression, and the opportunity to connect with like-minded positive others can hook them into a passion such as sport or the arts where they can thrive (9). Positive developmental experiences such as teamwork, interpersonal relationships, shared interests, initiative, emotion-regulation, and problem-solving can result (10, 11). Indeed, many successful sports stars, media tycoons and airline entrepreneurs have publicly shared stories of their disengagement and struggles at school (e.g., Kerry Packer, Richard Branson).

Connections to others, built through ECAs, differ from school-based connectedness in a number of ways. Schaefer et al., (11) found that when two adolescents participated in the same ECA, they were 2.3 times more likely to be friends than others who did not participate in the activity. This was stronger in arts than in sports (11). In fact there is some debate about whether different types of ECAs are equally beneficial for participants. Dance and arts activities have been found to promote social and emotional growth through independence, self-esteem, and initiative (10, 12). Generally, sport as an ECA has been found to contribute in a positive way to wellbeing (10), but some studies have linked sport to negative outcomes such as violence in immigrant youth (see 13) and drinking and risk behaviours (8,6). …

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