Many of today’s youth face unmet basic needs; are involved with anti-social peers; experience family conflict and instabilities; and suffer from emotional, behavioral, and mental health issues. Because of this, youth development programs are extremely important in promoting healthy youth development and addressing risk factors in youth.
Youth development researchers and program administrators have made advances in addressing positive outcomes for youth, but there is still much to be learned in the field. Not much is known about what specific program characteristics create positive outcomes, or how staff can be better prepared and trained so that program designs are more likely to create positive outcomes.
A unique partnership between The Ohio State University’s College of Social Work and its Department of Athletics, and Department of Recreational Sports, LiFEsports – Learning in Fitness and Education through Sports – is aiming to advance the practice of youth development nationally and internationally.
LiFEsports aims to increase the number and quality of sport and recreational programs available to youth, especially those from vulnerable circumstances. The LiFEsports Initiative is the second largest of its kind in the country, with over 650 local youth served each year. In 2018,
- 75.2% of youth indicated they use self-control, effort, teamwork, and social responsibility (S.E.T.S.) in their school, home, or community.
- 88.0% indicated that they had enhanced their sport skills through LiFEsports.
- 72.8% of LiFEsports youth indicated that because of this program, they are better at working in a team.
LiFEsports also hopes to increase the number of highly skilled youth development professionals in the field. In addition, LiFEsports seeks to advance the best practices in the areas of youth development, social work, and physical activity. In 2017-18, LiFEsports published two research articles in peer reviewed journals and presented at four conferences. LiFEsports is a national model for university outreach and youth development programs.
The initiative currently focuses on three primary strategies:
Service & Outreach, Teaching & Learning, and Research. Specifically, the aims of the Initiative are to:
Increase the number and quality of sport and recreational programs that are designed to promote positive youth development among at-risk youth.
Increase the number of highly-skilled youth development professionals in the field.
Build knowledge and best practices in the areas of youth development, social work, and physical activity as well as inform youth development policy.