Does Youth Sports Play a Part in Character Formation?

The process of character development remains one of the most important topics studied by modern psychologists as it defines the future life of children and adolescents and the way that they will be likely to deal with problems related to work and personal relationships. Despite the seeming simplicity of the question, factors that have an impact on the process of character development in children and adolescents have not been thoroughly studied yet. Nowadays, there is a range of factors that are regarded as things capable of shaping people’s characters. Among them, there are youth sports that include a variety of sports events for adolescents and children. The positive impact of youth sports on physical and emotional condition of children and adolescents has been discussed by numerous researchers, but the particular ways that youth sports impact character development still need to be studied.

The fact that the impact of youth sports on character formation is still considered to be an open problem has an impact on numerous groups of people. In general, there are three groups of people that are influenced by the problem: parents, children and adolescents, and physical education professionals. The study will focus on the way that young people and their coaches see character development with the help of sport.

The problem of sports and character development impacts common people from various social groups. There are adult people who want their underage daughters and sons to engage in youth athletics because they remember that being an athlete means being respected by classmates and younger children. With that in mind, these people use this model to encourage their children to participate in sports because they are sure that it will strengthen their children’s social status. The same can be true for those people who had significant communication problems when they were school students. Some people are too shy to enter school sports teams because they feel that they do not have enough talent to become successful in this sphere of life. Due to that, when they grow up, such people are likely to transfer their dreams of being popular among peers onto their children, and it becomes the primary reason why they want their daughters and sons to attend sports classes on a regular basis (Brummelman et al. 1).

Another reason that makes parents want their children to become athletes lies in the bad physical condition of their children and the lack of physical endurance that may cause diseases and other problems. Finally, when it comes to the link that exists between youth sports and character formation, it needs to be said that the lack of knowledge on the topic has a significant impact on those people whose children have communication problems or demonstrate the undisciplined behavior. Unfortunately, considering that psychological problems that can be manifested in children are unique, it is not right when parents choose sports sections for their children without discussing the matter with the latter and sports teachers. Teachers, for instance, can provide valuable advice helping to use youth sports to address the specific needs of a child.

Even though the opinions of parents have a significant impact on final decisions concerning sports classes that their children will attend, the group that is the most impacted by the present state of knowledge concerning the interplay between youth sports and character formation is presented by teachers and coaches. The work of the latter is highly impacted by the discussed topic due to numerous factors. The knowledge on the interconnection between youth sports and character formation is extremely important for coaches and teachers because they, together with their students’ parents, should be good at analyzing children’s physical and psychological needs and problems.

Character development remains an extremely important topic for physical education teachers and coaches due to the fact that their role moves beyond teaching children how to repeat various elements and movements without getting traumas. Instead, they should also have a wide knowledge of the peculiarities of psychological development in children, common problems that children and adolescents face during different periods of life, and exercises and sports activities that can help to reduce the impact of such problems on their behavior and attitudes. The impact that the problem of youth sports in character development has on adult people who have children of school age often results in problems for physical education teachers and coaches. In fact, they are expected to act as tutors to those adults and children who do not know how to address certain developmental problems. Also, they are to explain to their students whether it is effective to engage in sports activities to start new positive habits, improve communication skills, and solve other problems.

Finally, school students present a group that is influenced by the present state of knowledge. The proposed study is going to use their self-assessment results after four months of intensive training with their coaches. If sports can have a negative impact on character formation and contribute to the development of aggressiveness, impatience, and selfishness that are discussed in step one, all children and their parents will have a chance to make more informed decisions when choosing the right sports.

A representative group that can be studied within the frame of the proposed research in order to address the problem related to the lack of knowledge on the role of youth sports in character formation includes coaches and students (the students included in the sample should be from 7 to 18 years old). It is important to study the given group to learn more about the way that youth sports impact character formation in children and adolescents because coaches and teachers often become the witnesses of significant changes that take place when children with psychological problems start attending sports classes. Given the professional experience of coaches and teachers and a great number of important observations that they make, it is important to approach the problem of youth sports in character development, focusing on the way that professionals who help children to achieve success see the situation.

There are many reasons that justify the decision to include teachers and coaches in the sample. To begin with, the work of these professionals is highly impacted by the current state of knowledge concerning the influence of youth sports on character formation. The lack of knowledge related to the interplay between youth sports and character development can reduce interest in sports activities demonstrated by children and adolescents who would like sports to have a positive impact in terms of psychology and physical health. This group can be represented by students who do not have any significant health issues, but have problems related to their behavior, the degree to which their communication skills are developed, and are unable to organize themselves and follow accepted rules. Due to the knowledge gap concerning positive impact of different kinds of sport on the mental condition and character formation of underage people, coaches and physical education teachers have limited opportunity to motivate children and their parents. If there is enough evidence demonstrating that children become more disciplined, organize their time in an effective manner, learn how to work as a part of a team, and develop positive habits when they start attending sports lessons, the popularity of youth sports will increase, and coaches will be able to find new talents.

There are many children who would like to become more confident and self-disciplined with the help of sports (Eime et al. 98). Nevertheless, if coaches and physical education teachers do not know how to choose the right sports, the participation in sports events will not be effective. The problem of youth sports and character should be studied with the particular attention to coaches and students because the latter can make sports more effective both for physical and psychosocial development (Moeijes et al. 582).

School students were included in the representative group due to the fact that the current state of knowledge can be detrimental to their psychosocial development and future life. The problem is that parents and even coaches tend to use stereotypes when choosing sports sections for their children. For instance, they are likely to single out sports activities that are “only for boys” or “only for girls”, and these stereotypes prevent children from fulfilling their potential and achieving success (Chalabaev et al. 136). Also, children are impacted because many parents tend to believe that “sport is essentially pure and good” and that it cannot have a negative impact on character formation (Holt 22). The proposed study will try to destroy myths that idealize sports. If a child does not have friends and the lack of communication skills prevents him or her from being successful, encouraging a child to play individual sports such as tennis would not be the best decision because such child needs to become a part of a team (Walters et al. 242).

Within the frame of the study, twenty students (both girls and boys) will have to divide into two basketball teams and collaborate with professional coaches to prepare for a final game. First, coaches are to conduct the first training and hold conversations with their students to answer a few interview questions concerning each child:

  • How can you describe the student’s character, using three adjectives?
  • Does s/he have communication problems? What problems?
  • Can this student be a member of a team?
  • Is the student aggressive and why?
  • Is the student impatient?
  • Does the student have any discipline problems? Describe them.
  • Does the student demonstrate persistence when s/he has to gain new skills?
  • Is this student capable of becoming a team captain? What leadership skills does s/he demonstrate?
  • List three strengths and weaknesses that you have noticed so far.

Coaches will have to work with students included in the sample for a month. During this period, they are encouraged to make notes concerning positive and negative changes in students’ behavior that they notice. After four weeks of training and the final game, coaches will have to answer the questions again to evaluate the present situation. Apart from that, the second interview will include additional questions:

  • Did the student demonstrate any leadership qualities during the final game? Provide examples.
  • Are there any significant changes related to the student’s character and behavior?
  • Are these changes mostly positive or negative and why?

Before the first training, students will have to answer the same questions about themselves, and each student will be encouraged to be as self-critical and objective as possible. The questions will be the same because it will be important to compare students’ and coaches’ answers. Questions to be answered by students before the first training are the following:

  • How can you describe your character, using three adjectives?
  • Do you have communication problems? What problems?
  • Can you be a member of a team?
  • Are you aggressive and why? In which situations?
  • Are you impatient? In which situations?
  • Do you have any discipline problems? Describe them.
  • Are you persistent when you need to gain new skills?
  • Can you become a team captain? What leadership skills do you have?
  • List three strengths and weaknesses related to your character.

The final interview for students will include additional questions. Importantly, students will have to be given enough time to recover strength after the final game. Additional questions for the final interview are the following:

  • Did you demonstrate any leadership qualities during the final game? Provide examples.
  • Are there any significant changes related to your character and behavior? Who else notices that?
  • Are these changes mostly positive or negative and why?

Works Cited

Brummelman, Eddie, et al. “My Child Redeems My Broken Dreams: On Parents Transferring Their Unfulfilled Ambitions Onto Their Child.” PloS ONE, vol. 8, no. 6, 2013, pp. 1-4.

Chalabaev, Aïna, et al. “The Influence of Sex Stereotypes and Gender Roles on Participation and Performance in Sport and Exercise: Review and Future Directions.” Psychology of Sport and Exercise, vol. 14, no. 2, 2013, pp. 136-144.

Eime, Rochelle M., et al. “A Systematic Review of the Psychological and Social Benefits of Participation in Sport for Children and Adolescents: Informing Development of a Conceptual Model of Health Through Sport.” International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, vol. 10, no. 1, 2013, p. 98.

Holt, Nicholas L., editor. Positive Youth Development Through Sport (2d ed.). Routledge, 2016.

Moeijes, Janet, et al. “Sports Participation and Psychosocial Health in Elementary School Children.” Health Behavior and Policy Review, vol. 4, no. 6, 2017, p. 582-592.

Walters, Simon R., et al. “‘It Just Makes You Feel Invincible’: A Foucauldian Analysis of Children’s Experiences of Organised Team Sports.” Sport, Education and Society, vol. 20, no. 2, 2015, pp. 241-257.