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Finding a Sense of Community in Youth Soccer: A Composite Vignette of the Refugee Experience

Nina Fader, Eric Legg, Allison Ross

Abstract


This study examines the experience of a sense of community (SOC) for youth refugees in a community soccer club. Eleven male participants on a team for youth refugees participated in the study. Data collection was guided by a photo elicitation activity followed by semi-structured interviews. Both thematic analysis and creative nonfiction were employed to develop findings and present a composite vignette that strives to provide findings that are accessible, provocative, and give privilege to the voice of the participants. Most notably, findings provide support for two prominent theories of SOC within this context, and highlight the importance of emotional safety, shared history, leaders as role models, gratitude, and fun. The use of the vignette to present findings provides results in a format that is both accessible to practitioners and maintains the voice of the youth participants. The National Recreation and Park Association recently identified services for immigrants and refugees as key focus areas (NRPA, 2018). Findings from this study led to practical implications that address this focus area. Broadly, sport programs may provide a valuable venue for the development of protective factors such as a SOC for youth refugees. Further, teams that are specifically for refugees help facilitate the emotional safety and shared history necessary for the development of a SOC. Findings also suggest that refugees face numerous additional barriers that may require additional financial and practical support, including transportation or assistance with finding part-time employment. As such, managers may wish to consider building programs that follow a sport plus model that assists participants in other areas of life. Finally, findings point to ancillary social spaces that provide emotional safety as key parts of the experience. This also suggests the need to develop programs that leverage the common interests of sport into other social areas that provide additional benefits. 

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Keywords


youth sport; belonging; vignettes; creative analytic practice; social spaces

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.18666/JPRA-2020-9981

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