Benefits and challenges associated with sport participation by children
and parents from low-income families
Nicholas L. Holt*, Bethan C. Kingsley, Lisa N. Tink, Jay Scherer
Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2H9, Canada
Received 14 June 2010
Received in revised form
23 March 2011
Accepted 17 May 2011
Available online 2 June 2011
Sport psychology and leisure
Objectives: The first purpose of this study was to examine low-income parentsâ€™ and their childrenâ€™s
perceptions of the benefits associated with participation in youth sport. The second purpose was to examine
parentsâ€™ perceptions of the challenges associated with providing their children sporting opportunities.
Design: Interpretive Description qualitative approach (Thorne, 2008).
Methods: Thirty-five individual interviews were conducted with parents and children from 17 lowincome families. Data were transcribed and subjected to interpretive description analytic techniques.
Results: Analysis produced three main findings: (1) Parents and children reported that sport participation
was associated with a range of personal and social developmental benefits; (2) Parents reported that
several remaining barriers and constraints restricted the extent to which their children could engage in
sport and gain sustained developmental benefits; and, (3) Parents offered several possible solutions to
the problem of engaging their children in sport.
Conclusions: Findings demonstrate the value and importance of providing sport to children from lowincome families, but highlight that increased efforts are needed to overcome remaining barriers and
sustain long-term participation and benefits.
2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
The popular view that â€˜sport builds characterâ€™ has been widely
criticized (e.g., Fullinwinder, 2006). Indeed, sport participation has
been associated with negative issues such as adults modeling
inappropriate behaviors (Hansen, Larson, & Dworkin, 2003), the
misuse of alcohol (Oâ€™Brien, Blackie, & Hunter, 2005; Wechsler,
Davenport, Dowdall, Grossman, & Zanakos, 1997), engagement in
delinquent behaviors (Begg, Langley, Moffit, & Marshall, 1996), and
use of illegal drugs (Peretti-Watel et al., 2003). However, sport
participation has been correlated with numerous positive developmental indicators, including improved self-esteem, emotional
regulation, problem-solving, goal attainment, social skills, and
academic performance (e.g., Barber, Eccles, & Stone, 2001; Eccles,
Barber, Stone, & Hunt, 2003; Marsh & Kleitman, 2003; Richman &
Shaffer, 2000). Although, researchers generally agree that when
sport is delivered in appropriate ways it can promote healthy
development (Holt, 2008), there is a need for more evidence about
the developmental benefits of sport participation, especially for
youth from low-income families.
Sport participation can also increase levels of physical activity
among children and adolescents. This is important because the
majority of youth from developed countries are physically inactive
(Janssen et al., 2005). In Canada (the country in which the current
study was conducted), a recent nationally representative study of
6e19 year-olds demonstrated that only 9% of boys and 4% of girls
accumulated the recommended 60 min of moderate-to-vigorous
physical activity on at least 6 days a week (Colley et al., 2011).
However, children and adolescents who participate in sport accumulate more steps-per-day and are more likely to meet the physical
activity guidelines than non-participants (Active Healthy Kids
Unfortunately, evidence shows that sport participation has
declined. For example, data from national surveys have shown that
sport participation declined from 77% to 59% among Canadian
youth aged 15e18 years and from 57% to 51% for children aged 5e14
years between 1992 and 2005 (Ifedi, 2008). Sport participation was
most prevalent among children from high-income households
(68%) and lowest among children from lower income households,
at 44% (Clarke, 2008). Predictably, these studies found financial
barriers were a major factor that restricted sport participation
among children from the low-income families. Furthermore, children and adolescents from low-income neighborhoods have
restricted access to sport/leisure facilities (Gordon-Larsen,
McMurray, & Popkin, 2000) and perceived safety concerns limit
their access to neighborhood play areas (Carver, Timperio, &
* Corresponding author.
E-mail addresses: [email protected], [email protected] (N.L. Holt).
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Psychology of Sport and Exercise
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/psychsport
1469-0292/$ e see front matter 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Psychology of Sport and Exercise 12 (2011) 490e499
Crawford, 2008; Holt, Cunningham, et al., 2009). A study of 160
Canadian youth aged 12e18 years from high and low Socio
Economic Status (SES) families showed that for low-SES youth
there was a need for additional planned and adult-supervised
activities (which could included sport programs) to increase
physical activity levels (Humbert et al., 2006). Humbert et al. also
recommended that the accessibility of physical activity/sport
programs must be improved in low-SES areas. Hence, it is important to find ways to promote physical activity and, more specifically
for the current study, sport participation among children from lowincome families.
Clearly there are numerous unresolved issues pertaining to
sport participation among children from low-income families.
Although researchers have created instructional sport-based
programs designed to promote physical activity (e.g., Walker,
Caine-Bush, & Wait, 2009) and foster life skills (e.g., Hellison,
Martinek, & Walsh, 2008) among low-income youth, there is an
important distinction to be made between specific instructional
programs (usually delivered free-of-charge to a select group of
youth during- or after-school) versus â€˜everydayâ€™ mainstream sport
programs (e.g., school teams, youth leagues) that cater to a range of
youth and assess registration/participation fees (Holt, 2008). There
remains a knowledge gap when it comes to understanding the
benefits and challenges experienced by families who receive
funding for children to participate in such everyday/mainstream
sport programs. This knowledge gap is likely due to a fundamental
obstacle researchers face; namely gaining access to families in the
lowest-income brackets who actually have children involved in
sport. It is difficult to engage these lowest-income families because
of the obvious reason that financial barriers constrain their childrenâ€™s sport participation in the first place.
The current study
Organized sport participation in Canada is complex due to the
vast geographical size of the country and differences in sport
delivery among the 13 provinces/territories. Nonetheless, it could
be argued that government funding primarily supports elite sport.
Over the last three (winter) Olympic quadrennials Sport Canada
invested over $235 million (Cnd) to facilitate elite performance and
cfm). Furthermore, in conjunction with the 2010 Vancouver
Olympic Games, the federal government invested almost $19
million (Cnd) in the â€œOwn the Podiumâ€ program with the vision of
making Canada a world leader in the area of high performance
sport (http://www.ownthepodium 2010.com). However, there is
a lack of federal investment in the subsidization of sport for lowincome youth.
Each province/territory has the autonomy to provide and
support sport participation in different ways. Some provincial
governments (e.g., Nova Scotia) provide more direct youth sport
funding than others (e.g., Alberta). In Alberta (the province in
which the current study was conducted), federal and provincial
government subsidization of youth programs is negligible. This is
reflected by the costs associated with various types of sport
programs. For example, athletes (or more specifically, their
parents) are often required to pay registration fees even for school
sport programs. High schools in Edmonton, Alberta (the city in
which this study was conducted) assess fees in the range of
$400e$450 per season for a â€˜majorâ€™ sports (football, basketball,
volleyball), $150e$200 for sports like handball and soccer, and $50
for â€˜minorâ€™ sports such as badminton, cross-country, and rowing.
These fees cover out of town travel, team fees for competitions,
team meals, and clothing. Although some schools charge lower
amounts (and try to facilitate participation for low-income
children), normally parents are required to pay fees for school
Although school sport remains important, club sport is the main
vehicle through which Canadian children participate (Kremarik,
2000). In Edmonton, average club sport registration fees for
a single season (excluding equipment costs, tournament fees, or
travel) funded by the non-profit agency we partnered with to
recruit participants were as follows: indoor [winter] soccer ($200),
outdoor [summer] soccer ($85), hockey ($500), baseball ($180), and
track and field ($300). At a national level, research has shown that
two-parent Canadian households spent an average of $579 on sport
registration fees and equipment in 2005 (Clarke, 2008). In addition
to these fee/equipment expenses, families may have also spent
additional money on facility rentals, transportation to sports
events, and tournament entry fees that were not accounted for in
the 2005 survey. It is not uncommon for children to play with both
a school and club sport team simultaneously. This system clearly
places a large financial burden on parents being able to pay sport
fees. In light of such costs, it is not surprising that sport participation is lowest among children from lower income households
As a result of the that financial barriers primarily restrict sport
participation for children from low-income Canadian families
(Clarke, 2008; Ifedi, 2008; Kremarik, 2000), and the lack of
government sponsorship, a number of non-profit organizations
have been created to provide direct funding to facilitate their sport
participation.1 But, to the best of our knowledge, no studies have
specifically examined issues associated with sport participation
among families who have received such funding. We accessed
these â€˜hard-to-reachâ€™ families by partnering with one non-profit
organization. This organization provides funding to families in
the lowest-income bracket to enable their children to participate in
sport. Therefore, an exploratory study was conducted. The first
purpose of this study was to examine low-income parentsâ€™ and
their childrenâ€™s perceptions of the benefits associated with participation in youth sport. The second purpose was to examine parentsâ€™
perceptions of the challenges associated with providing their
children sporting opportunities. We wanted to establish how
personal and contextual factors combined to influence sport
participation and any potential developmental and health benefits
children could gain.
Given the novel and exploratory aspects of this study we were
neither testing nor guided by one specific theory. Rather, our
conceptual context was underpinned by principles from select
developmental theories. We broadly approached the study from
developmental theories based on the ecological systems perspective (Bronfenbrenner, 2005; Bronfenbrenner & Morris, 1998). One
aspect of the ecological systems perspective involves examining
personal interactions with features of the social environment
(known as ecological systems). People interact with several
different levels of human ecological systems, ranging from more
proximal microsystems to more distal macrosystems. Microsystems,
the most proximal human ecological system, are considered to be
the patterned activities, roles, and interpersonal relations a person
experiences in a setting. Behaviors in microsystems are influenced
by more distal levels of human ecology, such as macrosystems of
public policy, governments, and economic systems. Various types
1 In Canada there are several agencies that provide funding for childrenâ€™s sport
registration costs. These organizations include KidSport, Canadian Tire Jumpstart,
True Sport Foundation, Everybody Gets to Play, and the Wayne Gretzky Foundation.
N.L. Holt et al. / Psychology of Sport and Exercise 12 (2011) 490e499 491
of ecological approaches have been successfully used to examine
aspects of physical activity participation among low-income youth
(e.g., Casey, Eime, Payne, & Harvey, 2009; Holt, Cunningham, et al.,
2009). Similarly, Strachan, CÃ´tÃ©, and Deakin (2009) used an
ecological approach to examine developmental assets associated
with youth sport involvement. They found three particular assets
(positive identity, empowerment, and support) were important to
focus on in youth sport programs to decrease burnout symptoms
and enhance childrenâ€™s enjoyment. Hence, ecological models may
be useful for studying PA and youth sport participation. For the
current study, we were interested in identifying proximal issues
(e.g., relating to the benefits of sport for low-income children) and
distal issues (e.g., relating to broader funding and policy contexts),
which represent advances beyond previous research.
Ecological systems theory also underpins conceptualizations of
Positive Youth Development (PYD). PYD does not refer to a singular
theory but rather a range of approaches that share the assumption
children are â€˜resources to be developedâ€™ rather than â€˜problems to be
solvedâ€™ (Roth, Brooks-Gunn, Murrary, & Foster, 1998). PYD is
therefore a strength-based approach, and proponents view all
young people as having the potential for positive developmental
change (Eccles & Gootman, 2002).
Most conceptualizations of PYD are historically grounded in an
ecological systems perspective (Bronfenbrenner, 2005; Lerner,
2002). For example, developmental systems theory emphasizes
the idea that systemic dynamics of individual-context relations
provide the bases of behavior and developmental change (Lerner,
2002). One important idea is the concept of relative plasticity,
which is the potential for systematic change across the lifespan.
More specifically, the concept of relative plasticity â€œlegitimates
a proactive search in adolescence for the characteristics of youth
and their contexts that, together, can influence the design of policies and programs promoting positive developmentâ€ (Lerner &
Castellino, 2002, p. 124). The potential for change lies in relations
that exist among multiple levels or contexts that range from the
individual psychological level to proximal social relationships (i.e.,
families, peers) to sociocultural levels (including macroinstitutions
such as policy, governmental, and economic systems). Hence, the
target of developmental analysis should be on the ways in which
different components of a system are in relation and how they may
influence individuals. Applying this concept to sport, it may be
possible to identify factors at different ecological levels or contexts
(i.e., family, community, policy) that can be aligned to promote
positive development for children from low-income families.
There are several specific theories of under the umbrella of PYD,
including the interpersonal domains of learning experiences
(Larson, Hansen, & Moneta, 2006), the â€˜5Csâ€™ measurement model
(Lerner et al., 2005), and the developmental assets framework
(Leffert et al., 1998). In designing the current study, we were open to
the possibility that some of these theoretical approaches to PYD
may have been useful for guiding elements of the analysis.
However, we did not select a particular approach a priori. Rather,
due to the novel and exploratory aspects of the study, we â€˜followed
the dataâ€™ and used theory selectively to help advance interpretive
analysis (Sandelowski, 1993; Thorne, 2008). Therefore, the study
was generally approached from an ecological developmental
systems perspective (Lerner, 2002) rather than a specific conceptualization or way to measure PYD.
Interpretive Description Methodology
We used Interpretive Description (ID) methodology, which is
a qualitative approach for generating grounded knowledge in
applied research settings (Thorne, 2008). Interpretation is informed
philosophically by ontological perspectives of multiple realities and
epistemologically that knowledge is socially constructed by the
person who experiences events. Thus, ID research focuses on
understanding experience and accounting for social forces that may
have shaped the experience. ID is particularly useful for studies that
seek to examine patterned relationships between personal and
contextual issues and was therefore an appropriate methodological
selection for this study.
Sampling and recruitment
Purposeful sampling was used to recruit participants for this
study. Sampling criteria were established a priori and used to
identify those individuals who would be able to provide the best
information in response to the research purposes. For the current
study the main sampling criteria were that families must be of
lowest SES bracket and had received funding to pay sport registration fees for a child in the past 12 months.2 Low SES was based
on Federal Low Income Cut-Offs (LICOs) for before-tax earnings by
family size and population of area of residence (Statistics Canada,
2009). LICOs are Statistics Canadaâ€™s most established and widely
recognized approach to estimating low income. LICO is an income
threshold below which a family will likely devote 20% or more of
its income on the necessities of food, shelter, and clothing than the
average family. In 2007/08, the before-tax LICO in the city of
Edmonton for a family of two adults and two children was a total
household income of $27,601. For purposes of comparison, the
city-wide mean family income for 2006 was $72,800 (City of
Families were recruited with the assistance of a non-profit
charitable organization that provides funding to pay sport registration fees for children from low-income families. Eligible families
receive funding (paid directly to sport organizations) to
a maximum of $250 per child per season. LICO is a measure used by
this organization for the provision of funding; therefore, all families
funded would meet our sampling criteria as being from the lowest
SES bracket. A part-time employee from the non-profit organization mailed recruitment letters to 200 families who had received
funding in the previous 12 months. Interested participants contacted the research team via telephone or e-mail and a convenient
time and location for interviewing was arranged. Participation was
voluntary and not a condition of funding. Research Ethics Board
approval was obtained. Parents provided written informed consent
for themselves and their children. Children provided oral assent.
Participants received a $40 gift certificate (one per family) for
a grocery store of their choice.
Data were collected from 35 parents and children representing
a total of 17 families (the response rate was 8.5%). The sample
comprised 17 parents (15 mothers, 2 fathers; M age Â¼ 44.5 years,
SD Â¼ 7.9) and 18 children (7 females, 11 males, M age Â¼ 12.5 years,
SD Â¼ 2.5). Participantsâ€™ regions of origin were Canada (n Â¼ 10),
Eastern Europe (n Â¼ 3), Asia (n Â¼ 2), Africa (n Â¼ 1), and the Middle
East, (n Â¼ 1). Of the families who originated from Canada, three self2 The definition of sport used was based on the Canadian Governmentâ€™s definition of sport, which is: â€œSport is a regulated form of physical activity organized as
a contest between two or more participants for the purpose of determining
a winner by fair and ethical means. Such contest may be in the form of a game,
match, race, or other form of competitive eventâ€ (http://www.pch.gc.ca/pgm/sc/
492 N.L. Holt et al. / Psychology of Sport and Exercise 12 (2011) 490e499
reported being MÃ©tis. As per the sampling criteria, all families were
low-income based on LICOs.
Data were collected via a total of 35 individual interviews conducted by two trained researchers. Interviews were completed in
separate rooms in the participantsâ€™ homes or at the university. One
researcher interviewed the parent while the second researcher
interviewed the child. A semi-structured interview approach was
used e that is, questions were based around an interview guide but
the researchers were careful to follow the participantâ€™s lead. For
example, following a warm-up period and some rapport building
questions, parents were asked questions about their childrenâ€™s
sport participation in general (e.g., How long has your son or
daughter been playing [chosen sport]? Are there any other sports
that he/she plays? What are your personal experiences of your son/
daughterâ€™s involvement in sport? What is it you like best about
your son/daughterâ€™s involvement in sport?), obstacles and challenges to sport participation (e.g., Have there been any times when
your son/daughter wanted to play sport and wasnâ€™t able to? [Probe
for examples]. Is there anything you feel has prevented his/her
development as an athlete? If possible, what would you change so
he/she could play more sport?) and, benefits associated with sport
(e.g., Can you give me any examples of personal or social skills you
think your son/daughter may have learned in sport? What is it
about playing sport that you think has helped him/her to learn
these skills?). At the end of the interview we also asked some
questions about the parentsâ€™ views about the process of obtaining
funding from the non-profit organization that assisted us with the
recruitment. The childrenâ€™s interview guide focused on their sport
experiences and benefits they associated with sport rather than
barriers their families faced.
Interviews were transcribed (within approximately one week of
the interview) by a professional transcribing service and checked
with the original recordings to ensure accuracy. Prior to the formal
coding of the transcripts the researchers discussed their initial
thoughts about findings by debriefing following interviews. More
formal coding commenced as soon as transcripts were received and
there was interaction between data collection and analysis. Data
provided by parents were analyzed first because they provided the
more detailed accounts upon which to create the coding schema.
Initially two researchers read through the transcripts from the first
five parents and used content analysis to identify specific themes.
Essentially this step was the deconstruction of all data obtained and
it produced a long list of all themes. A rule of inclusion was written
for each theme, which is a description of the meaning of the theme
and the data contained therein. The same procedures were then
applied to the parentsâ€™ and childrenâ€™s transcripts independently. All
remaining transcripts were coded and the initial themes were
broadly organized in terms of benefits (18 themes initially),
opportunities (5 themes initially), and barriers (9 themes initially).
While data from parents and children were coded into the benefits
themes, only parentsâ€™ data pertained to the themes of barriers and
opportunities. This was because the barriers and opportunities
represented more abstract ideas that were likely beyond the childrenâ€™s comprehension. As such, childrenâ€™s data only extended to
the more â€˜concreteâ€™ benefits they associated with sport
The next analytic step involved a more â€˜interpretive turnâ€™
(Thorne, 2008) in which the researchers consider what pieces of
data might mean, both individually and in relation to each other.
This involved establishing patterns and relationships within and
between data. To achieve this, the themes from the â€˜long listâ€™
initially generated were aggregated into more meaningful categories. Comments from parents and children reflecting developmental benefits were compared and combined, and redundant or
overlapping themes were collapsed and the initial coding scheme
was reduced. Thorne suggested that techniques from other methodologies can be used here. We used constant comparison, memos,
and diagramming from grounded theory to advance our interpretive thinking. We also followed Thorneâ€™s advice and asked â€œWhat
ideas are starting to take shape such that I think they will have
a place in my final analysis if it is to do justice to my research
question?â€ (p. 160). This enabled us to look beyond content analysis
and move into the realms of interpretation. At this point a decision
was made to categorize all themes related to benefits of sport
participation into a larger category (which included quotes from
parents and children). Then, treating parentsâ€™ data in isolation,
remaining themes were grouped into categories of barriers/
constraints and possible solutions.
Thorne (2008) suggested that it is possible to use theory to
advance interpretive analysis, but advised researchers to avoid
moving too quickly to the imposition of a theoretical framework to
help organize or guide interpretation. Following this advice, and
given the broad conceptual context underpinning the study, we
selectively applied theory to advance our interpretation of the data.
There was no single theory that could be used without unduly
â€˜forcingâ€™ various constructs on the data. For example, some of the
benefits associated with sport participation linked with theories of
PYD (i.e., Larson et al., 2006) whereas broader barriers/constraints
and possible solutions are not accounted for in any theories of PYD
but were consistent with ecological and developmental systems
theories (i.e., Bronfenbrenner, 2005; Lerner, 2002). Hence, we used
the PYD concept of personal and interpersonal domains of learning
experiences (Larson et al.) to help organize the developmental
benefits associated with sport. In terms of barriers/constraints and
possible solutions, we sought to examine within these concepts in
terms of connections between family level and broader contextual
(i.e., macrosystem) issues (i.e., Bronfenbrenner; Lerner). Hence, we
used theory broadly to help guide and refine certain aspects of the
analysis, rather than rigidly imposing a theory onto the data
(Sandelowski, 1993; Thorne, 2008).
Methodological rigor was addressed using several techniques.
We primarily focused on using self-corrective techniques during
the process of the study (Morse, Barrett, Mayan, Olson, & Spiers,
2002). Two researchers worked together closely during the analysis. Data analysis commenced as soon as initial interviews were
transcribed and there was interaction between data collection and
analysis throughout. The initial coding schema was created based
on both researchersâ€™ coding of the transcripts from the first five
families, and the researchers engaged in an on-going dialog during
the remaining analysis. Early engagement in data analysis helped
establish that an adequate level of data saturation had been
obtained. That is, when data had been collected and analyzed from
12 families we felt we were reaching an acceptable level of saturation as the core categories were becoming well established and
few new ideas were arising. However, we continued to collect data
from an additional 5 families because they contacted us to participate in the study and we did not want to refuse participation.
These data further saturated the findings.
The study allowed for a level of corroboration between parentsâ€™
and childrenâ€™s perspectives for the developmental benefits theme
only. Data relating to broader (macro) issues were not corroborated
N.L. Holt et al. / Psychology of Sport and Exercise 12 (2011) 490e499 493
by data provided by parents and children, mainly because children
are unable to discuss such broad/abstract ideas. To help us further
understand more about the broader issues discussed by parents
(which reflected macro-level issues), results were presented at two
board meetings of the non-profit organization (a local Annual
General Meeting [AGM] and a provincial AGM) because board
members, we assumed, would be familiar with some of these
macro-level issues. Board members were presented with an oral
summary of the findings and asked to provide their opinions and
feedback about the researchersâ€™ interpretations. Their comments
helped to clarify some aspects of the analysis, especially around the
remaining barriers and constraints (i.e., more macro-level issues).
Many comments related to ways in which the non-profit organization could facilitate sport participation more effectively. These
claims were in response to data pertaining to the need for better
awareness of funding programs. Although we met with some
resistance from board members (e.g., some suggested that their
program advertising had improved since we conducted the study),
we retained these issues in the final results in order to remain
faithful to the perspectives of the participants, especially the
parents. The way we dealt with such feedback reflects the guidelines provided by Morse et al. (2002) in terms of avoiding an overreliance on post-hoc verification techniques.
The combined data from parents and children demonstrated
some clear associations between sport involvement and children
gaining a range of social and personal developmental benefits
(Table 1). Our analysis showed that some barriers and constraints to
sport participation remained. We also found that parents offered
some possible solutions to the problem of maintaining their childrenâ€™s sport participation, which included actions taken by them as
well as a desire for greater availability of and accessibility to
funding resources (Table 2). Our interpretations of the data are
summarized in Fig. 1, which shows the identified patterns between
the findings. Our main conceptual claim (cf. Thorne, 2008) is that
continuing barriers and constraints limit the extent to which developmental benefits of sport participation will be consistently realized
and have long-term effects on childrenâ€™s development.
Several developmental benefits (the only category in which data
were corroborated by children and parents) were associated with
childrenâ€™s participation in youth sport. These findings were organized in terms of personal and social benefits (Please see Table 1 for
quotations from parents and children). Social benefits parents and
children reported were relationships with coaches, making new
friends, and teamwork/social skills. Personal benefits reported by
parents and children were emotional control, exploration, confidence, discipline, academic performance, weight management, and
â€˜keeping busy.â€™ In the interests of being concise, we present the
main developmental benefits in Table 1, which includes exemplar
quotes from parents and children.
Beyond the findings reported in Table 1, an important point to
emphasize is that several of the benefits reported by parents and
children appeared to â€˜transferâ€™ from sport to other areas of the
childrenâ€™s lives. Parent # 10 (P10) summed up the general view
[Sport] is important, it can change lives. It should be part of our
life because itâ€™s a lifestyle is totally different in 21st century than
before. They [children] donâ€™t do so many [other things like]
gardening or planting [activities] to keep body going in
spending energy. It is very important to play sport. For
health. to be part of that team, to learn to be part of
community. to learn how to become better. And [at the]
same time it helps him [son] also to improve his schooling score
[i.e., grades]. I think [his] marks for his subjects in the school [are
better] because [of sport]. I think the brain works better and
clearer when they do any kind of exercise. [And] I cannot
imagine him going on to party and smoking and drinking and
using drugs. I believe that children who play sports, they are
not involved in gangs and drugs, alcohol and other stuff.
Similarly, her son (Child 10) reported a range of benefits he
experienced through playing sport:
Thereâ€™s making new friends. The whole thing of making new
friends, meeting new people. And I think, itâ€™s a great way to help
kids mature almost, to deal with the emotions and deal with
people around them â€™cause these situations that theyâ€™re put in, I
think it would really help them develop. And of course thereâ€™s
that other skill of interaction that everyone needs. And of course
I think itâ€™s fun. Thatâ€™s the main reason that I play volleyball. And I
think also that itâ€™s a good stress relief and if youâ€™re like busy with
school and other things, I think itâ€™s a great way, sports help like
get more, like I almost feel like I work more efficiently if I play
sports even though it takes a part of my time. Almost like
doing my homework more efficiently if I have less time almost
to manage my time. And if youâ€™re physically active it almost
helps your brain to be more clear.
As reflected by these quotes and the more detailed information
provided in Table 1, we found several personal and social benefits
associated with sport participation and parents and children made
fairly direct connections between sport and these benefits.
Barriers and constraints
As explained in the method section, the category of barriers and
constraints is entirely based on issues parents reported. Despite
receiving funding, parents faced additional barriers that restricted
the extent to which they could support their childrenâ€™s participation in sport. Many parents reported some of the familiar time
management and scheduling demands that are often associated with
having children involved in sports. But the parents in this study also
had to deal with some unique circumstances, primarily related to
their financial situation, which made supporting their childrenâ€™s
sport participation even more difficult. P2 explained that:
Well we looked at doing rock climbing out here [at the university]. [But] itâ€™s a little bit trickier here because they have an
indoor facility here but given that I [cannot drive due to medical
reasons] and my wifeâ€™s in school so sheâ€™s not really there to drive
us, getting out there and back on the bus would shoot three
hours. Right? . Like here itâ€™s a good 40 minutes one way, then
an hour lesson and then 40 minutes back.
Several parents in this study worked multiple jobs that made it
difficult to facilitate their childrenâ€™s sport participation. P8 reported
Thatâ€™s why we were very, very busy so we just didnâ€™t have any
time. Itâ€™s ongoing project, one after another and there is no
spare time at all. So, our son has to adjust to our schedules
unfortunately because we canâ€™t change it and I canâ€™t help it. I
have three jobs at the same time because we have to pay our
bills and I have to support my family here.
As the final sentence of the previous quote suggested, parents
continued to face significant financial barriers that limited their
494 N.L. Holt et al. / Psychology of Sport and Exercise 12 (2011) 490e499
Summary of developmental benefits associated with provision of sport opportunities.
Theme Exemplar quotes from parents Exemplar quotes from children
P2: He loved his first instructor. He just loved her â€™cause she gave him the
attention he needed, she didnâ€™t treat him negatively. You know, you could
tell at times itâ€™s a little frustrating to have to go over something again and
again. But uh she did really well so he talked about her.
C4: Well [name of coach] was favourite leader. â€™Cause she was
really nice and she thought that I was really good at gymnastics
because Iâ€™m always tucking in my toes.
Making new friends P8: For us specifically because we are immigrants, we didnâ€™t have any
relationships here before we came. We didnâ€™t have any family here before
we came. So, we were practically by ourselves. Any contacts were really
useful for us. And when he went to sport he learned so many kids and I think
it helped him just to be, just to help him to integrate in the community. And,
you know, it wasnâ€™t so easy when you donâ€™t speak the language, when you
donâ€™t know um anything about the city or culture.
C16: Before football I had never like had different friends of
different races. And in football everybodyâ€™s just, yeah your
Jamaican kids, Somalian kids, people from Singapore, some
Italians. So it really helps you learn how to be, how to deal, like
not deal, but how to have friends, diverse friends. The
friendships you make in sport are probably the most important
because you carry those with you for the rest of your life.
P9: . Thatâ€™s one reason why my husband wants her to play volleyball.
Because he says, that my daughter, for a long time she has been the only
child in my family. So she doesnâ€™t know so much about how to, the social
skills, yeah. And sheâ€™ll play, and my husband says piano is an individual
thing. But sports you have to know how to play with others. Itâ€™s a teamwork,
so. I think she learn a lot about social skills when she plays volleyball.
C5: Well, I think like it just, you sort of get used to like talking on
the field, like you sort of talk to everybody, [and about] social
lives off the field. So, you can talk to people in class and, and
outside of school and stuff.. You could learn um I guess just
how to be a teammate and how to play fair, how to
communicate and learn different things of like different skills
and stuff and use â€™em maybe in your future if there is an
opportunity to go in like a different academy, a higher team or
something like that.
Emotional control P6: And actually when you play sport I see it helped him a lot like we went
through hard times and it kept him calm. Maybe you know it took he took
his anger out there. You know um it was like a therapy for him as well. Thatâ€™s
what I really found. And even with my daughter I see the same. Sheâ€™s, they
make, it makes them more calm more patient. They could count to 10 before
they actually go there and do something else.
C10: Things like um temper management and um, like
controlling my emotions. And such as, since Iâ€™ve played more
and more volleyball Iâ€™ve realized on the court I was able to, like,
sometimes control my emotions, just not get mad. I learned to
be a lot more positive than I used to be. For example, if you mess
up on a point I learnt how to get over it. And like sometimes my
attitude towards things have changed and I think Iâ€™ve become
a lot more positive person.
Exploration P1: I think it helps her to know herself a little better. Like she, through the
gymnastic, although she only done for eight, 10 weeks, she likes to do that
kind of stuff and she will try different things herself. Which is scary
sometimes. But she wanted to do a cartwheel so she continued trying at
C7: Uh Iâ€™d say that uh that when um, I donâ€™t know, I guess itâ€™s
when you just uh play sports it just your, your mind really starts
like working and, and it makes you, I donâ€™t know uh whatâ€™s the
word, mmm, it just makes you think more I guess.
Confidence P3: For sure, for sure, like thatâ€™s why I say whatâ€™s significant for me is the
confidence of just being like trusting that I can step out and I can do this and
even if I fall thatâ€™s fine, I can try again and just having that like over, and
over, and over like for 3 years built into their brain. that counts for a lot.
C10: I think a really big part of sport is I learned how to be
confident and that helps a lot, especially in school and like
public places. If I need to give a speech I know how to like calm
myself down before I present. I can be confident and if I interact
with other people, not only on sports teams but with new
people, different friends, I know how to interact with them
better. And like generally in school or family things if Iâ€™m really
down I can get myself together a little bit faster. I think itâ€™s given
me those benefits.
Discipline P13: Yeah. But, um and, and theyâ€™re learning. Like theyâ€™re learning discipline
and how that, certain ways that they have to do things, which I think itâ€™s, itâ€™s
a benefit for me at home because, I mean, they donâ€™t, they donâ€™t just use
what they learn in soccer, they use it otherwise, you know, like at home..
Like lately [my son] has been telling his brother, you know, â€œthis is how you
need to deal with [a situation].. If [name of guardian] says this is right we
have to do it that way.â€ So, at first it kind of blew me away like whereâ€™s he
getting it from but then I realized it is from soccer. Itâ€™s, itâ€™s almost like theyâ€™re
totally different kids when they played.
C7: Itâ€™s made me responsible in some ways and made me like
stronger â€™cause uh when, when I knew like all the, when, before
I didnâ€™t know all these sports I donâ€™t know, I was just like, I was
just, I would just like sit at home, do nothing and be lazy. But
now Iâ€™m like, yeah I have responsibilities and stuff.
P7: Yeah I see that. I see that. Yeah I see that yeah how responsive they are I
mean and even their academic performance in, in, in class you know, yeah
thereâ€™s a remarkable improvement you know, yeah.
C5: Yeah. Well, maybe because if say in school, you have
a project and itâ€™s in a group of four maybe then you all have to
work together to get it finished in time. But if one person just
does it all they might not get finished or itâ€™s just maybe really
bad or, yeah.
P6: Just how everythingâ€™s connected thatâ€™s it. You know like soccer, sports,
healthy living you know makes you a better person. Youâ€™re, you know if
youâ€™re healthy it build, builds your self-esteem better too. So I said you know
because I see kids at school theyâ€™re a bit chubby and theyâ€™re too shy to go
C16: Without sports I would probably be like 200 pounds,
sitting on the couch doing nothing. Well I think everyone
should be healthy. Like they should do at least something to
keep themselves physical. Doesnâ€™t need to be sport, they can do
whatever it is that they need to do. â€™Cause once you start to get
into the habit of just sitting on the couch, doing nothing, eating
chips, getting bigger and bigger every day, youâ€™re not as happy
with yourself. And you can say youâ€™re happy with yourself but
Keeping busy P5: When I see some kids her age and what theyâ€™re doing and, and then I
look at her and see what sheâ€™s not doing. Do you know what I mean? Like
hanging out at the malls or the streets or even getting into bad stuff, she,
sheâ€™s not. And, and actually, none of my kids are â€™cause they all play soccer,
we keep them involved and so we, we know sort of where they are and what
theyâ€™re doing. And, and theyâ€™re too busy with, between soccer and school to
be out getting in trouble.
C7: Yeah [because of sport] now I have, I have like, more of the
big responsibility in life and not just, not just coming everyday
from school, sitting home and being idle and stuff.
N.L. Holt et al. / Psychology of Sport and Exercise 12 (2011) 490e499 495
childrenâ€™s sport participation. In part, this was related to the fact
that they only received $250 funding per child per year which did
not cover all the costs of sport programs. P5 explained that â€œwhen
you have children like [name of daughter] who want to participate
in summer and winter, $250 doesnâ€™t cover it. Like the indoor
[soccer] season is about double the price of the outdoor season.â€ In
the winter, soccer is played indoors (due to the weather) and the fee
in this case was $230 per child because parents are required to help
cover the cost of expensive indoor field rentals. During the summer
soccer, is played outdoors and field rental is much cheaper and
therefore registration fees are less expensive. In this instance,
funding was clearly insufficient to cover all the costs and parents
were required to fund the shortfall themselves. Highlighting the
on-going financial constraints, P7 reported that:
We are a family of six so.we are facing financial constraints and
there was the time we wanted to register [two children] in the
community [soccer], the total amount was about $300 for both
of them, our budgets couldnâ€™t sustain that at that time.
In P7â€™s case her childrenâ€™s sport participation was curtailed
because the family could not provide additional funds to supplement the funding it received. Similarly, P11 reported that:
Yeah. And each time she [daughter] does it, thereâ€™s a cost.
Running club is the same. Whatâ€™s the cost for running? They run
around the block! Well but you know itâ€™s for the party or for this
and itâ€™s $5 for every race or is it even more. And I drive her there
[another cost]. I donâ€™t think that [the organizers] realize how
sometimes those costs actually prevent my kids from joining
running club. Like weâ€™re not even talking hockey [an expensive
sport]. Running club! There shouldnâ€™t be a cost for that. Sheâ€™s got
her own runners [running shoes]. I drive her to the things and
yet thereâ€™s always that cost. I tried to kind of ask [about reducing
the cost] but you know itâ€™s a little bit embarrassing. You donâ€™t
want your child to be labeled necessarily as the one that canâ€™t
Another related financial barrier for parents involved maintaining their childrenâ€™s participation as they improved in sport. For
example, P3 said â€œas they progress it will get more expensive and
like already now like I have to contribute some [more money]..
But as they progress in, in their training then it will get more
expensive.â€ Similarly, P6 reported that:
When [name of children] grow older the price changes sometimes. And the fees get more costly. And we went through
a separation, me and my husband, and then you know sometimes it gets difficult. But I donâ€™t want [my son] to know [my
financial circumstances]. I would work extra hard for him to pay
for his sports.
Hence, several barriers and constraints limited the extent to
which children could continuously engage in sport. As children
improve, costs of sport rise, but supplementary assistance/subsidization does not. Such barriers and constraints likely restrict the
long-term developmental benefits children could gain from their
involvement in sport.
Findings revealed several types of solutions to the problem of
parents providing their children with sporting opportunities. One
fundamental idea was that parents attempted to find ways to â€˜help
themselvesâ€™ within their financial constraints to provide sporting
opportunities for their children. For example, the idea of compromise
was reflected by many parents, and often it involved making sacrifices in one area of family life to support sport. P4 said â€œI just might
have to compromise some of my things [expenses] in order to make it
possible for my children to do some things, some other things.â€
Families would also find alternatives to providing financial support.
P12 explained that to help pay for sport costs â€œyou have to volunteer,
you know, that you work a bingo night. or you sell tickets, you
know, they have Grey Cup tickets [a fundraiser based on the Canadian
Football Leagueâ€™s national championship game] uh, pool tickets uh,
different things they have, or at the Christmas party.â€ Similarly, P5
We make up a point of trying to keep them involved. [One
sport program] is with the school, but itâ€™s something that we
have to pay for. But my husband volunteers at the school so
through him volunteering they just put his hours towards
paying for the program for [daughter]. So, so thatâ€™s actually
worked out well for us too otherwise yeah, she wouldnâ€™t be in
that [school sport program].. We just sort of made arrangements with the principal to, to um if [my husband] volunteered
then they would pay for her monthly fee.
However, parents could only â€˜help themselvesâ€™ to a certain
degree because of their constraining financial situations. Accordingly, we also found parents expressed a desire for better awareness
of available funding for sport. One issue that restricted access was
many parents were unsure of what additional funding resources
were available to them. P1 said, â€œBut then, I donâ€™t know, I really
hope thereâ€™s other places which might [provide funding] but I, I
havenâ€™t looked into it yet.â€ In fact, we found that families who
participated in this study had obtained funding from the non-profit
organization because either they were well-informed (e.g., in one
case the mother was a part-time social worker and understood the
â€˜systemâ€™ and the available resources) or because they received
assistance from a teacher or coach (e.g., P7 explained that a teacher
realized his child needed additional funding and told us that â€œhis
teacher gave him an application form [to apply for funding from the
non profit organization] for me to completeâ€). Still, while some
parents were knowledgeable or received assistance to find funding,
the issue of not knowing or understanding the availability of
resources was most salient for newcomers to the city/country.
Summary of categories and themes reported by parents only.
Barriers and constraints Time management and scheduling
Maintaining childrenâ€™s participation
as they improved in sport
Possible solutions Parents â€˜help themselvesâ€™
Awareness of available funding
Additional funding resources
Fig. 1. Model of factors associated with sport participation by members of low-income
496 N.L. Holt et al. / Psychology of Sport and Exercise 12 (2011) 490e499
Therefore, a potential solution for improving access to resources
was to improve the visibility of programs to help parents understand the various programs to which they could apply. One way to
improve the visibility of programs was through advertising. P2
We need more funding. To make that more possible, we need
some more advertising out there. The programs exist. the
programs are out there, nobody knows about it. You know,
[name of non-profit organization] existed for how many years?
And I found out about it a year ago and we could have used it
many years before. You know? And itâ€™s not just the [name of
non-profit organization] program, itâ€™s [also] all the government
programs, a lot of them seem to hide. Um thatâ€™s one of the
drawbacks of the system is it doesnâ€™t do a very good job of
advertising itself. At times it gets better but for the most part, it
doesnâ€™t seem to promote itself very well.
In addition to increasing knowledge and awareness of existing
funding programs parents also needed additional funding resources
to support their childrenâ€™s sport participation. This appeared to be
particularly salient in the poorer areas of the city where most
participants resided. P1 said:
I think this is probably outside of the scope [of your question]
but maybe thereâ€™s more different types of activity available for
the kids. And also through different funding then that will be
great. And also through the city, me and my friends always talk
about how certain programs thatâ€™s offered by the city is only in
certain areas. And like on the north side we tried to look for
those kind of programs and itâ€™s not available. Itâ€™s always more
downtown, central or south. So thatâ€™s another thing.
In summary, potential solutions to the problem of supporting
childrenâ€™s sport participation were parents helping themselves,
increasing knowledge and awareness of funding programs, and the
need for additional funding opportunities. These findings show that
while parents were taking personal responsibility for engaging
their children in sport, additional funding was clearly needed to
help sustain sport participation and increase the likelihood of
children gaining sustained developmental benefits from sport
The first purpose of this study was to examine low-income
parentsâ€™ and their childrenâ€™s perceptions of the benefits associated with participation in youth sport. Developmental benefits
associated with sport participation by parents and children were
reported. We broadly classified these into social and personal
benefits (see Table 1), which were consistent with certain
conceptualizations of PYD (e.g., Larson et al., 2006). Findings at the
social level (i.e., relationships with coaches, making new friends,
and teamwork/social skills) add to a growing body of evidence in
the sport psychology literature that indicate the potential for social
skills to be acquired through participation in sport. For example,
findings from a study of an ethnically diverse team of Canadian
high school soccer players showed that life skills associated with
participation on the team included teamwork and leadership (Holt,
Tink, Mandigo, & Fox, 2008). More specifically, teamwork and
leadership were the only skills that these high school studentathletes learned through sport that they thought transferred to
other areas of their lives. This finding has been replicated in
a retrospective study of youth sport participation among Canadian
university students (Holt, Tamminen, Tink, & Black, 2009), and in
US studies comparing benefits of sport participation to other leisure
activities (e.g., Hansen et al., 2003). It may be that learning to
interact with teammates to pursue common goals necessitates
social interaction. That is, individuals must learn to work together
to achieve team and personal goals. It is also possible that these
social skills were particularly important for the low-income youth
we studied who may not have otherwise had many opportunities to
interact with others outside of their â€˜most proximalâ€™ social sphere
(i.e., family members, schoolmates).
Larson et al. (2006) compared youth participation in sports with
other organized activities (i.e., arts, academic, community, service,
and faith programs). Students in sport reported significantly higher
rates of initiative, emotional regulation, and teamwork experiences
compared to students involved in the other activities. The reported
benefits of sport are consistent with the current findings. We also
found improved academic performance was a benefit associated
with sport participation. This is consistent with previous research
(Marsh & Kleitman, 2003) that found sport participation in grade 12
predicted a range of post-secondary outcomes for youth (e.g.,
improved school grades, homework, educational and occupational
aspirations, university applications, subsequent college enrollment,
and eventual educational attainment). The current findings add to
the literature because, to the best of our knowledge, previous
studies examining the potential benefits of sport participation have
not sampled those lowest-income families that require financial
assistance to fund their childrenâ€™s involvement in sport. Sport
participation may be particularly important to these familiesâ€™ lives
because children gained personal and social benefits from activities
they likely would not otherwise experience.
These findings clearly show the potential benefits of sport for
children from low-income families and highlight the need to
support their sport participation. This is a powerful finding due to
the increased health-risks faced by children from low-income
families. By aligning macrosystems policies (rather than, for
example, providing a specific program) it may be possible to create
systems to promote PYD through sport (cf. Holt, 2008; Lerner &
Castellino, 2002). By creating appropriate systemic conditions/
relations we can capitalize on the concept of relative plasticity and
promote PYD. Sport systems may be poised to have a powerful
impact on PYD for children from low-income families if there is
adequate provision of funding in the future.
The second purpose of this study was to examine parentsâ€™
perceptions of the challenges associated with providing their
children sporting opportunities. Constraints and barriers limited
the extent to which children could have sustained sport participation and therefore gain long-term developmental benefits.
Although it has been established that financial constraints restrict
Canadian childrenâ€™s sport participation (Clarke, 2008; Ifedi, 2008;
Kremarik, 2000), the more unique aspects of the current findings
relate to sustaining participation after provision of funding.
Sustaining involvement in sport is an important developmental
issue. For example, a recent study by Zarrett et al. (2008) showed
that children who had more continuous (i.e., sustained) participation in sport reported more positive developmental outcomes than
children with less sustained sport involvement. Hence, ways to
sustain sport involvement are required, especially among children
from low-income families. In addition to the role of non-profits, the
onus is on government and sport organizations to provide subsidies
to sustain participation. Improving provision of sport for lowincome children (who report low rates of physical activity and
poor health outcomes) should be viewed as a long-term investment
in health. That is, children with sustained sport participation
maintain higher rates of physical activity (e.g., Tammelin, NÃ¤yhÃ¤,
Hills, & JÃ¤rvelin, 2003) and report fewer health problems (e.g.,
HasselstrÃ¸m, Hansen, Froberg, & Andersen, 2002) during adulthood. Although difficult to quantify, providing sport to low-income
N.L. Holt et al. / Psychology of Sport and Exercise 12 (2011) 490e499 497
youth is a health promotion strategy that may help reduce the
financial burden on the health care system in the long term. For
example, one Canadian study predicted families of at-risk children
who had participated in a subsidized recreation/sport program
would cost $500 less per annum in health and social services
accessed than those who did not receive such programming
(Browne, 2011). For example, children involved in the recreation/
sport program were 90% less likely to use a social worker or
One of the possible solutions offered by the findings of this
study involved parents â€˜helping themselvesâ€™ in terms of volunteering to assist with sport in lieu of paying registration fees.
Interestingly, in contrast to declining sport participation, there have
been noticeable increases in volunteering in sport by Canadians.
The number of amateur coaches increased 1.6% from 1998 to almost
1.8 million in 2005 (Ifedi, 2008). Similarly, in 2005 over 2 million
Canadians volunteered their time as administrators or helpers, up
18% from 1998. These are particularly important findings because
children whose parents are involved in sport (as a participant
themselves or an administrator/coach) are more likely to be sport
participants (Kremarik, 2000). Encouraging parents of low-income
children to volunteer in sport organizations may be a way of
facilitation sport participation. That said, parents from these
families may work several jobs and have limited transportation
options that restrict the extent they can engage in these activities.
Nonetheless, the finding that parents can â€˜help themselvesâ€™ to
support sport participant by volunteering is an important issue for
future consideration. For example, sport clubs or schools could
establish formal policies whereby registration fees are waived for
children whose parents volunteer.
Parents expressed a clear need for the provision of additional
funding opportunities. This is a macro-level policy issue related to
economic and policy level systems (cf. Bronfenbrenner, 2005;
Lerner, 2002). However, subsidization of youth sport has not been
adequately addressed at a federal government level because the
majority of funding is directly toward elite sport. The Canadian
federal government does offer a Childrenâ€™s Fitness Tax Credit
(CFTC), which allows a non-refundable tax credit of up to $500 to
register a child (up to the age of 16 years old for an able-bodied
child) in an organized youth sport program. However, a recent
internet-based panel survey of 2135 Canadians examined the
effectiveness and uptake of the CFTC (Spence, Holt, Dutove, &
Carson, 2010). Results showed parents in the lowest-income
quartile were significantly less aware of and less likely to claim the
CFTC than other income groups. The authors interpreted this
finding to mean that families without the resources to make the
financial outlay to pay for programs in the first place will not
benefit from a tax credit. Therefore, the CFTC appears to benefit
wealthier families. The Spence et al. study, combined with the
current findings, highlight the need to provide more direct funding
to low-income families to promote and sustain childrenâ€™s involvement in sporting activities.
From a theoretical perspective the findings support the
continued use of ecological and developmental systems theories
(i.e., Bronfenbrenner, 2005; Lerner, 2002) to examine issues related
to sport participation for children from low-income families. Some
of the benefits reported reflect proximal â€˜microsystemâ€™ interactions
at individual, family, and social (i.e., teammate, coach) contexts. But
we also showed how â€˜macrosystemâ€™ issues influenced sport
participation. Remaining financial barriers reflect economic
systems, and the need for additional funding reflects policy and
governmental systems. These findings reflect the importance of
understanding the â€˜relational unitâ€™ e that is, relationships between
various contexts must be studied in order to understand ways in
which systems can be organized to optimize youth development
(Lerner & Castellino, 2002). According to these theoretical
perspectives, coordinated strategies across multiple ecological
levels are required to create the systemic conditions that can be
altered to foster PYD (Lerner, 2002).
Hence, by interpreting the findings through an ecological/
developmental systems theoretical lens we were able to identify
factors at different ecological levels or contexts (i.e., family,
community, policy) that can be aligned to promote PYD among
children from low-income families. Furthermore, in accordance
with the goals of ID (Thorne, 2008), the findings have clear implications that may inform policy and provision of sport. For example,
the non-profit organization we partnered with (and other similar
agencies) clearly played an important role in providing sport
opportunities. Such organizations need to consider that $250 may
be insufficient to adequately cover sport costs, particularly as
children progress through increasing levels of competition. There is
also a need to more clearly communicate with low-income families
to help make them aware of available funding opportunities.
Finally, there is an urgent need for more direct federal government subsidization of sport programs, especially because the
existing CFTC program appears to benefit higher income families the
most (Spence et al., 2010). One means of government providing
financial support would be to fund non-profits, whereas other
means would be to directly fund parents, or to better subsidize
school sport programs and sport clubs. Parents could be provided
vouchers to purchase equipment. Fundamentally, these suggestions
implicate the development of multi-sector partnerships (i.e.,
between all levels of government [in Canada, federal, provincial/
territorial, and municipal], non-profits, and sport clubs). Government investment in sport may actually save tax dollars in the long
term (Browne, 2011).
Given the focus on relational/contextual issues, we did not
examine individual differences within and across participants,
which is a feature of developmental systems theories (Lerner &
Castellino, 2002). More specifically, limitations of this study were
that we only interviewed two fathers (as opposed to 15 mothers).
This was likely because mothers were the primary caregivers and
responsible for supporting their childrenâ€™s involvement in sport.
However, previous research has shown differences in the perceptions and attitudes of mothers and fathers to sport participation.
For example, mothers may see themselves as giving more positive
support and being more actively involved in their childrenâ€™s sport
activity than fathers, possibly because mothers feel more responsible for family life and child care than fathers (Wuerth, Lee, &
Alfermann, 2004). Fathers tend to give more sport specific feedback to their children and push them to train harder (Wuerth et al.).
Therefore, additional analyses of the views of fathers and potential
differences in the opinions of mothers versus fathers are needed.
The current study also did not consider child-level gender differences, or other psychological/personality factors that may influence
adaptation and development. These issues require further analysis.
We were able to sample a particularly hard-to-reach group. The
response rate was low, but there are several reasons that may
explain this.We know, anecdotally at least, that low-income families
tend to move house often (and approximately 20 recruitment letters
were â€˜returned to senderâ€™ and others may not have reached the
intended participants but were not returned to sender). Other
reasons for non-participation (we speculate) may include possible
language barriers, and lack of motivation. Hence, it is possible that
we recruited the more socially competent parents who were motivated for some reason to participate (e.g., they wanted to advocate
for the possible benefits of sport and need for funding). These factors
should be considered when judging the findings. Nonetheless, the
study revealed some crucial issues associated with providing sport
opportunities to children from low-income families. Most
498 N.L. Holt et al. / Psychology of Sport and Exercise 12 (2011) 490e499
importantly, continuing barriers and constraints limited the extent
to which developmental benefits will be consistently realized and
have long-term effects on childrenâ€™s development.
This research was supported by grants from the Sport Science
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