Good (youth) sports: Using benefits-based programming to increase sportsmanship

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Journal of Park and Recreation Administration






Sagamore Journals

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Sportsmanship problems in youth sport have recently become a more prominent issue for parks and recreation professionals. Benefits-based programming is one method these professionals could use to address the issues of sportsmanship in their youth leagues. Recent studies and programs have successfully employed prosocial behavior techniques in this process as a means of improving the sportsmanship atmosphere in youth leagues. Previous research, however, has yet to compare the efficacy of such programs in comparison to a control group. Data for this study were gathered through observations of positive and negative sportsmanship behaviors youth basketball games at two local community centers. Three specific groups were involved: A control group (in which no intervention took place); PHPFPF only (in which prosocial behavior techniques were employed); and PHPFPF + refs (in which prosocial behavior techniques were employed along with referees trained in prosocial behavior). All games involved third through sixth graders and observations included players, coaches, and spectators. In addition, measures of fun were collected from participants at each game using a “fun-o-meter.” Results suggest that intentional programming can be successfully employed to increase sportsmanship in youth sports. The youth sport league that did not utilize the benefits-based programming model displayed lower levels of positive sportsmanship and higher levels of negative sportsmanship for both age groups. The parks and recreation professionals at the second site, however, were able to develop a plan that enabled them to accomplish their goals by intentionally determining that sportsmanship and fun were two benefits being promoted in the league. Several lessons resulting from this study can be utilized in order to improve youth sport programs. Administrators who are hoping to create a more positive sportsmanship atmosphere may want to employ the benefits-based programming model. Furthermore, several of the prosocial behavior techniques employed in this study can be used to help professionals improve the sportsmanship in their leagues. A basic program was successfully used that was both easy and inexpensive to incorporate. An additional feature of training referees to use prosocial behavior can then be added for even greater results. By intentionally focusing their efforts on improving sportsmanship, both through increasing positive behaviors and decreasing negative ones, youth sport programs can be more fun for participants, which should lead to better overall experiences and hopefully help these youth to maintain participation in the future.

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