Sport-Based Youth Development in Practice: The Long-Term Impacts of an Urban After-School Program for Girls


  • Jennifer E. Bruening University of Connecticut
  • Brianna S. Clark Temple University
  • Michael Mudrick University of Connecticut


mentoring, longitudinal design, multi-level design, social capital theory, sport, youth development


Sport-based youth development (SBYD) programs based on strong and enduring relationships between youth and mentors have the potential to make lasting impacts on both groups. The current study was a follow up to initial research conducted with five adolescent girls who participated in a university-affiliated SBYD after-school program, Sport Hartford (Authors, 2009). Sport Hartford connected female college student-athlete mentors with preadolescent girls living in the North End of Hartford, Connecticut. The program was a campus-community partnership between a local university and the City's Park and Recreation Division. Mentee to mentor ratios were kept low (3:1) and the two-hour sessions, two days a week, for 28 weeks encompassed instruction in nontraditional sport for underserved girls, nutrition education, and life skill lessons grounded in SBYD. The current study aimed to demonstrate the enduring impact and positive outcomes a SBYD program for girls can have on participants. Formal interviews were conducted in 2009-10 with each girl and, in three cases, their mothers. In addition, consistent check-ins with the girls and their mothers occurred from 2009 to present. A multilevel social capital framework was applied to examine the impact of both the program and the connections formed between the participants and mentors. Findings suggest that the intentionality with which relationships were formed between mentors and participants led to enduring positive impacts. Specifically, the strong bonds Sport Hartford encouraged between the girls' family members and Sport Hartford mentors exhibited college as the natural path after high school. In addition, the social capital the participants gained through their individual networks and connection to Sport Hartford directed them toward healthy behaviors. Most importantly, Sport Hartford has been, and continues to be, a trusted structure within the participants' community, and this trust provides lasting and enduring relationships. The findings of this study provide a number of implications for professional practice. For example, this study demonstrated that the relationships between individuals in a SBYD program are crucial toward personal development and fostering a sense of belonging. In addition, our study supported the notion that program outcomes are more desirable when parental support is incorporated into programing as it is also a key component in the mentor-mentee relationship (Mahoney & Stattin, 2000). Specifically, the involvement of mothers into youth programming for girls has a greater potential for the accrual of social capital and thus an enduring relationship with program staff. Finally, programmers working with underserved girls should strive to incorporate dedicated female staff into their programs. 





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