Methods: Using mixed methods, this study explores factors related to long-term retention among youth attending a PYD program focused on enhancing self-control, effort, teamwork, and social responsibility through sports. Factors related to youth participation in the previous year’s program, as well as youth demographics (e.g., race/ethnicity, fitness level, gender) were examined to explore retention among the 124 of the 384 eligible campers, aged 9-14, returning the next year.
The Perceived Self-Control Scale (Anderson-Butcher et al., 2016a) evaluated the ability to control and manage emotions and reactions. The Perceived Effort Scale (Anderson-Butcher et al., 2016b) assessed the ability to try hard. The Teamwork Scale for Youth (Lower et al., 2015) evaluated the ability to work with others to achieve a common goal. The Perceived Social Responsibility Scale (Anderson-Butcher et al., 2016c) evaluated respect toward others and the community. The Perceived Social Competence Scale-II (Anderson-Butcher et al., 2014) evaluated the frequency of prosocial engagements. The Belonging Scale (Anderson-Butcher & Conroy, 2002) evaluated sense of inclusion. Additional items measured sport competence, overall camp experience, and attendance. Binomial logistic regressions were used to predict retention.
Additionally, 18 parent/caregivers of returning youth and 18 match comparison parent/caregivers of non-returning youth participated in semi-structured interviews. Questions were designed to ascertain why (or why not) children returned (or did not) return to the program, as wells as explore overall experiences at the program the previous year. Interviews lasted approximately 30 minutes and were coded using thematic analyses. Peer debriefing and member checking were used to strengthen the trustworthiness of findings.
Results: Results of the regression analyses showed the full model (with all predictors included), versus an intercept-only model, was statistically significant, χ2 (11, N = 235) = 23.38, p = .02. The model correctly classified 88.2% of the non-returners and 28.0% of the returners for an overall correct classification rate of 67.2%. This was only a minor increase relative to the intercept-only model which correctly classified 65.1%. Better fitness levels and higher social responsibility scores were associated with a greater probability of returning.
Qualitative analyses revealed both returners and non-returners benefited from LiFEsports. Parent/caregivers cited positive interactions with adults and peers, as well as physical, social, and family benefits. Parents/caregivers of non-returners identified more negative social interactions during camp such as peer conflicts and alienation. They also identified external barriers to returning such as conflicting schedules and missing registration.
Conclusions and Implications: Findings suggest the value of fitness and program outcome’s related to social responsibility for predicting retention, as well as the importance of relationships. PYD programs should consider how the prosocial interactions and peer conflict mediation might assist with retention efforts. Future studies should explore conflict resolution strategies within PYD programming.