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New Study: Youth Sports Promote Social & Emotional Learning, Especially Among Young Men Of Color

 Laureus USA today released the results of a comprehensive study showing sports-based youth development (SBYD) programs play a significant role in fostering critical social and emotional learning (SEL)  skills necessary to succeed in school, careers and life.  These SBYD programs have a particularly strong impact on young men of color and youth in under-resourced communities.

The study, funded by The Allstate Foundation, surveyed nearly 10,000 youth across the country who participated in a SBYD program.  It found that substantially more young people in SBYD programs develop SEL skills than those attending non-sports programs. 

“Through sport, young people increase their social skills, teamwork, sense of positive identity, and desire to give back to their team and community – all attributes that have been shown to drive long-term success academically, on the job and in life,” said Kim Sabo Flores, Ph.D. of Hello Insight, who conducted the study. “One of the most important finding shows that sports programs are especially important for young men, who have more difficulty than girls growing these skills off the field,” Dr. Flores adds.

As this study confirms, sports, when used intentionally, are fertile ground for whole-child development. SBYD programs help assure that all young people have opportunities to play and that costs do not exclude youth from lower income families from participating in sports.

The full research report, Sports-based Youth Development: Hitting a Home Run in Social and Emotional Learning Outcomes, showing more information on demographics, methodology and the role coaches play is available online.

“Laureus USA has always believed in the value of sports-based youth development programs because of sports’ unique ability to act as a tool for positive youth development,” said Edwin Moses, Chairman of Laureus USA.  “It is great to see the findings from this report reinforce our work, from investing in the rigorous measurement of SEL outcomes to addressing the gaps that limit access to sport programs for under-resourced and vulnerable youth.  We hope these findings will encourage other funders to invest in SBYD given the impact these programs have on the lives of youth.”

Among the key findings:

  • Significantly more boys in SBYD programs develop SEL skills compared to boys in non-sports programs. 
  • More girls in SBYD programs succeed in the area of Social Skills.
  • Young men of color in non-sports programs develop fewer SEL skills than young men identifying as white.
  • However, young men of color in SBYD programs do not have significantly different scores from their white peers. This finding demonstrates that young men of color develop SEL skills in SBYD programs, they do not develop in non-sports programs.
  • Coaches are important in developing SEL skills:
    • For boys, this is done by supporting them to try new things, broaden their horizons, set and manage goals that are important to them and that build upon their passions.

o   For girls, coaches are most effective by spending time to build relationships and ensure that those young women’s voices and opinions matter – they share power.

About Jerry Milani

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Jerry Milani is a freelance writer and public relations executive living in Bloomfield, N.J. He has worked in P.R. for more than 25 years in college and conference sports media relations, two agencies and for the International Fight League, a team-based mixed martial arts league, and now is the PR manager for Wizard World, which runs pop culture and celebrity conventions across North America. Milani is also the play-by-play announcer for Caldwell University football and basketball broadcasts. He is a proud graduate of Fordham University and when not attending a Yankees, Rams or Cougars game can be reached at Jerry (at) JerryMilani (dot) com.

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