About this project
Involvement in sports is one of the most popular activities among youths. The common consensus is that involvement in sports has major benefits for youths. Yet, the current literature has major limitations. First, we have limited understanding of why involvement in sports is related to positive outcomes. Several prior studies showed that already well-adjusted youths tend to choose structured activities such as sports. Hence, the differences between the youths who are involved and uninvolved in sports could largely be due to self-selection. Second, we have very limited knowledge about what youths learn in sports. No study has answered these questions yet. We will conduct a natural experiment supplemented with longitudinal assessments of sports involved and uninvolved youths over 3 years (N around 1100).
We will collect relevant information from all youths in 4th to 9th grades in a neighborhood in early 2014. In this neighborhood the community will open a large sport facility for the youths, where about 500 youths will get involved in sports. Collecting data prior to the establishment of this facility will allow us to identify and measure self-selection factors, and to compare the youths’ development over time controlling for self-selection factors with much better precision than in previous research.
Our research will answer five major questions:
1) Is involvement in sports related to positive outcomes over time after controlling for pre-existing differences?
2) How does the adjustment of youths involved in sports change over time?
3) What do youths learn in sports?
4) Which features of the sports settings contribute to the learning and development of youths?
5) What explains staying in or dropping out of sports activities, and the unequal participation of girls and immigrants? The findings will move the field forward by contributing to better theoretical understanding of the benefits of sports, and guiding practice and policies regarding sports activities.