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The Effect of Sport on Troubled Youth



The Effect of Sport on Troubled Youth


Sport has always been an integral and central part of most communities. It can be traced back to the period of ancient Greeks. In order to eradicate violence and war during ancient times, societies participated in competitive sports. The youthful aggressiveness otherwise used in war and violent acts was transferred to competitive sports. Around the mid 19th century in Britain, sport became a method of student social control in all public schools (Hawkins, 1998).

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The English administration in schools and public institutions considered a sport as an alternative to vices, such as bullying, poaching, drunkenness, and vandalism. These vices had previously been the main activities boys engaged in during their leisure time. Recently, with increasing youth violence, drug abuse, and increasing crime, the sport has been considered a suitable panacea for troubled youths.

Current academic research and studies by scholars like Jamieson and Ross (2007) have indicated quite a several benefits to youth’s engagement in sporting activities. Far and wide, it is believed that young people who participate in sports are less likely to abuse drugs, smoke, or get early unplanned pregnancies, among other social delinquency behaviors. At the time when youths are in their sport lessons or practices, their peers who do not participate in sports may be tempted to engage in troubling activities in the streets or other vices, relating to idleness.

Further investigation into the matter indicates that youths involved in sports get particular behavioral and emotional qualities that reduce the chances of them engaging in delinquent behaviors. When youths are involved in sports, they tend to become more aware of themselves, self-confident and self-respect, and these attributes, in return, make the youths morally upright and reduce the chances of involvement in troubling activities.

The effect of sport participation on troubled youths is the core of this paper. Does participation in sport among troubled youths stop them from delinquent behaviors, or does it increase their likely hood to become more troublesome? In the number of successful former American sports, a person can be easily counted in a bid to identify the value of sport among troubled youths. However, one can still count the number of former American athletes with criminal records to illustrate moral deviance that has erupted as a result of the sporting culture. Scholars have taken to studying these trends over the years to establish how youths respond to sports culture and the outcome of their participation.

As Heimer (2001) records, those who believe that troubled youth’s participation in sports will moderate their delinquent behaviors, do so with the notion that sport builds and promote their character. When troubled youths are engaged in sports, they tend to conform more to positive behavior than deviant influences, thus they can acquire values and norms that make them more convenient and good citizens.

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The main supporters of the positive influence of sports among troubled youths argue that sports enhance good behaviors. Due to positive socialization with sports couches, physical education and team membership are the requirements. Team leaders promote healthy lifestyles among sports members. Their influence works against drug abuse and other substance abuse. As a result of youths committed to their sports team, the pressure to be physically fit, and the fear of jeopardizing the ranking of the team, troubled youths tend to conform to positive behaviors.

Sports also give a direct channel to outlet aggression and divert from negative peer influence. Ensuring troubled youths are placed in an environment that fosters positive behavior, reduces their chances of engaging in delinquent behaviors. Secondly, involvement in sports activities promotes individual esteem and resilience. This creates more room to learn healthy behaviors. Taking the case of girls, for example, their participation in sports may enhance their self-esteem and confidence, giving them a sense of social recognition, as well as physical empowerment within their schools and community.

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With improved social status and self-reliance gained through sport participation, troubled girls are highly likely to resist peer pressure to trade sex for popularity or approval. Youths involved in sports are less likely to be engaged in risky behaviors, such as drug use, compared to youths that do not participate in sports (Robbins, 19900). The study conducted in the US by Gerlach (2002) found that high school student-athletes smoke slightly less, compared to their inactive fellow students, but tend to chew tobacco or use snuff more often.

There is also another group of scholars who believe that troubled youths' engagement in deviancy is the result of involvement or membership with certain organizational systems among them sports organizations. A good example is a sports team that exposes youth to influence older teammates' delinquents. Secondly, they argue that due to instances of cheating and indiscipline in athletic competitions, troubled youths tend to learn delinquent behaviors.

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Most results from empirical research indicate a negative relation between sports and delinquency among troubled youths, though they have recommended caution when interpreting their findings because some could be entirely based on the selection bias of the sample study. It is suggested that maybe sports programs attract conformers only and troubled youths, thus do not involve themselves in such programs. Similar results indicated that there is a negative relationship between high school extra-curricular activities such as sports and official delinquency records by the court. The most consistent study for the positive impact of sports on youths with delinquent behavior has been provided by Segrave (2005); they conducted numerous studies under different circumstances and all instances indicated more support for the negative relationship between sports and delinquent behaviors; one study highlighted the same among young kids between 11 and 13 years.

There is a negative relation between sporting activities and delinquency. The negative relation becomes even more strengthened when serious offenses, such as physical assault and vandalism are examined among college students. Though study results indicate negative relations between delinquency and participation in sporting activities, research suggests that the type of sports youths and children engaged in had a higher relevance to the relationship than the individual degree of participation. Youths involved in highly physical and aggressive sports had a higher likelihood to be engaged in antisocial behaviors than those who participate in minor sports.

A more recent study conducted by Segrave (2005), examining the relationship between ice hockey sport and delinquency did not indicate substantial differences between players of ice hockey and other athletes. However, when the study is subjected to serious deliquescent acts such as vandalism and physical harm, youths participating in ice hockey reported more serious delinquency behaviors than those engaged in other sports. Findings above empirical studies indicate that sports, particularly most aggressive ones, have a high likelihood to increase their level of participation in antisocial aggressive acts rather than foster an alternative to channel their aggressive impulse. The subject of the effect of sports on troubled youths continues to raise eyebrows, owing to the escalating number of youth’s involvement in criminal violence, and drug abuse everywhere around the globe. The numbers of energetic youths in prisons and jails continue to rise, especially in the United States.

Problem Statement

Recently, with increasing cases of juvenile crime, violence, drug abuse, and trafficking, concerns have risen on a global scale, concerning the causes of delinquency among youths and how to counteract the behaviors. The situation has prompted scholars, as well as human rights, watch groups among other government institutions to suggest that sport might provide the best answer on the issue of troubled youths. Delinquency is rampant in every major city around the world, accompanied by juvenile gangs that loom up with an increasing number of unemployed, idle youths.

Concerns on how to handle troubled youths' aggressive and delinquency behaviors have become a controversial issue with considerable implications on a country’s policy, and delinquency control among troubled youths. This study will attempt to fill research gaps lefts by the previous studies on the impact of sports on troubled youths. The study will go ahead to establish new insights in the field of sports and deliquescent acts among the youths.

The Rationale for the Research

The relationship between sports activities and delinquent behaviors has raised considerable debates over the last several decades. So far much of the debate has been based on the theoretical view but owing to the controversial nature of this debate, empirical evaluations have been conducted recently, owing to the nature of the argument.

Most researchers carry out the study on troubled youth, academic performance, or public relations. A lot of literature is available worldwide on the relationship between troubled youth, drugs, violent behavior, crime, and academic performance. All these topics are adequately discussed and have brought about the necessary conclusions and recommendations. However, a gap exists in the study, relating to troubled youth and sports.

These two issues are interrelated and their relationship has not been well established so far. This calls for a thorough study on the issue, to come up with the correct relationship between the two, to know whether sports assists troubled youths or it adds to their delinquent behaviors.

The research will aid most sporting programs and institutions to realize the impact of sports on the participant and how to improve the sporting requirements to ensure the minimize delinquency among troubled youths.

Statement of the Research Objectives

The purpose and objectives of this study are to come up with a clear picture of the relationship between sports and troubled youths. The research study will determine this relationship, to have a wider scope of how the two are connected and what factors cause the connection if any exists. To attain these objectives and purposes, the research will attempt to answer the following question:

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What is the effect of sports on troubled youths?

To acquire more precise and detailed results of the problem, the following sub-questions will assist in the evaluation:

  1. What is the role of sports in youths?
  2. Do sports assist in reducing delinquency?
  3. Do sports reduce or increase violent behaviors among troubled youths?


The relationship between sports, delinquency, and troubled youths is negative. Sports has a major role in the life of young people, as the more an individual is involved in sports, the less likely he/she is to get involved in petty offenses and delinquency. Therefore, sports assist in reducing levels of delinquency. Furthermore, it reduces violent behaviors among troubled youths.

Limitations of the Study

Several limitations face the study. Firstly, subjects to be used for the study will have different family backgrounds and thus the effect of sports on them varies. In addition, the cultural background of the youths understudy is likely to affect the generalization of the findings. Likewise, youths attending mainstream collegiate or high schools may not give a real representation of typical collegiate or high school in the entire state; the selected sample may not represent the entire population efficiently. Subjects of the study will be males, thus limiting the study's ability to give generalized results for troubled female youths. Determining troubled youths and the seriousness of the delinquency act will also limit the study’s ability to generalize the results of the subjects.

Definition of Terms

For this research, youth refers to people who are below 18 years of age and who are mainly prone to violent and antisocial behaviors and have significantly what comprise such behavior. A sport is an action that involves skill and physical effort, in which a person or team vies against another/others (Hartmann et al, 2006). For this study, troubled youth will refer to young people who are emotionally disturbed in a way that causes a substantial disruption of their daily life both at home and school. They are characterized by crude behaviors, such as acting violently towards others, disrupting classrooms, jeopardizing themselves through alcohol use and chronic drugs, or getting involved in behaviors that endanger them or others (Farrington, 2004).

Delinquency or delinquent behavior refers to conduct that differs from accepted norms or the law or trivial crime that is particularly committed by young people. Delinquency is a legal term used to define criminal character executed by a juvenile, which always leads to escalating awkward behavior (Smith et al, 2004). Antisocial behavior refers to a sharp deviation of one’s behavior from the social norm, in a manner that perpetuates harmful or hostile activities against an organized group or entire society.

It can also refer to consistent infringements of communally normative behavior, which usually involves rule infraction, aggression, insolence to adult authority, vandalism, and violation of social mores and norms of society (Wankel & Berger, 1990). It also refers to behavioral deficits; those include depression, withdrawal, and isolation, which get exposed outwardly through behavioral 3 excesses such as:

  • physical and verbal aggression;
  • disturbing others;
  • violent acts.

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Research Proposal Summary

A troubled youth cannot be explained or defined in one statement. How an individual becomes troubled depends entirely on several factors and the personality of the individual. However, it is believed that engagement in sports helps to reduce the level of troubled youth in society. The purpose and objectives of this study are to come up with a clear picture of the relationship between troubled youths and sports. The research study will determine this relationship, to have a wider scope of how the two are connected and what factors cause the connection if any exists.

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