Abstract: Sport-Based Youth Development Social Skills Program Components: What Matters in Design? (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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585P Sport-Based Youth Development Social Skills Program Components: What Matters in Design?

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Samantha Bates, PhD, Assistant Professor, Texas Christian University, TX
Dawn Anderson-Butcher, PhD, Professor, Ohio State University, OH
Anthony Amorose, PhD
Purpose/Background: Poor social skill development among at-risk youth is of growing concern in school and community settings. Research suggests sport-based positive youth development (PYD) can be an effective intervention to facilitate social and athletic competence, self-esteem, and overall health and well-being, particularly for vulnerable youth from adverse settings (Anderson-Butcher et al., 2014). One gap in the scope of the current research is exploration of how positive reinforcements either allotted verbally by program staff in sport-based PYD contexts or tangibly through the use of incentives influence growth in the social skills development of at-risk youth.

Methods: To examine whether, and to what extent, program components contribute to growth in social skill outcomes, we analyzed pre- and post-test survey data from 301 at-risk youth who attended a sport-based PYD summer camp. The summer camp curriculum is grounded in teaching four social skills: (1) Self-control, (2) Effort, (3), Teamwork, and, (4) Social Responsibility (S.E.T.S). We used the Leader Support Scale (modified from Bolter & Weiss, 2012) to assess praise and expectations; youth self-report items to assess the number of tangible reinforcements (S.E.T.S. buttons) youth received; and, measured youth perceptions of growth on the four social skills. We conducted a series of hierarchical regression analyses to examine whether the leader support and S.E.T.S. buttons variables were predictive of S.E.T.S. scores at post-camp after statistically controlling for the level of S.E.T.S. scores at the pre-camp. A separate analysis was conducted for each S.E.T.S. variable, with the post-camp score on the respective variable serving as the criterion.

Results: Findings indicated the pattern of results was essentially identical across each of the analyses. Each of the post-camp S.E.T.S. variables were significantly predicted by all of the variables, with the exception of the number of S.E.T.S. button received. The prediction of the post-camp S.E.T.S. scores by the other variables found to be significant contributors was typically similar in direction (all positive) and magnitude (e.g., sr2 ranges = .01-.06). The results indicated that both of the leader support variables and the value placed on the S.E.T.S. buttons positively predicted the youth’s post-camp S.E.T.S. scores after controlling for the pre-camp scores. The number of buttons received, however, was not a significant predictor in any of the analyses.

Conclusion/Implications: Findings indicate curriculum alignment along with training youth sport leaders to identify and draw connections between sport activities and social skills may be critical. Given sport is a context where over 21 million youth participate annually (SFIA, 2013), positive developmental outcomes may be facilitated by youth sport leaders are trained to provide positive verbal reinforcements, to identify examples of when and how youth demonstrate prosocial behaviors and skill, and to align incentives with desired outcomes. These findings have implications for other school social skills programs and community-based PYD settings. The current study adds to what is known about sport-based PYD program design, and what program design components foster positive social skills development for at-risk youth.