GUIDELINES FOR FOSTERING LIFE SKILLS THROUGH SPORT: AN ANALYSIS OF THE LITERATURE
DIRETRIZES PARA A PROMOÇÃO DE HABILIDADES DE VIDA POR MEIO DO ESPORTE: UMA ANÁLISE DA LITERATURA
GUILHERME HEBLING COSTA
Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to review the knowledge produced in recent years regarding Life Skills, providing basic information and simple guidelines that could help coaches, instructors, and anyone involved in the teaching, through sports and physical activities, of life skills, be able to implement their strategies effectively and based on recommendation from a number of studies. With this in mind, we present research and recommendation for practitioners by addressing what constitutes a life skills, the transfer process, a model of this process, the implicit and explicit approaches and strategies, the role of coaches/instructors, positive conditions for teaching and learning life skills, and finally, describe a few existing community and school-based programs developed in other countries, which could be used to develop and guide more national programs for fostering life skills amongst Brazilians.
Key-words: Life Skills; Life Skills Development; Life Skills Programs; Coaches; Instructors
Resumo: O objetivo desse trabalho é revisar o conhecimento produzido recentemente, em relação à Habilidades de Vida, oferecendo informações básicas e diretrizes simples para auxiliar técnicos, instrutores, ou qualquer profissional envolvido com o ensino de Habilidades de Vida por meio de atividades físicas e esporte, para que possam implementar estratégias efetivas e baseadas em recomendações feitas pela literatura. Com isso em mente, apresentamos resultados de pesquisa e recomendações para profissionais, discutindo o que constitui uma Habilidade de Vida e sua importância, o processo e modelo de transferência, o papel do técnico/instrutor, condições ambientais ideais para ensinar Habilidades de Vida e, finalmente, descrever alguns programas comunitários ou escolares desenvolvidos em países estrangeiros, os quais poderiam ser utilizados como modelo para desenvolver e guiar programas nacionais que promovam a aquisição de Habilidades de Vida entre brasileiros.
Palavras Chave: Habilidades de Vida; Desenvolvimento de Habilidades de Vida; Programas de Habilidades de Vida; Técnicos; instrutores
Resumen: El objetivo de este trabajo es revisar el conocimiento producido recientemente, en relación a las Habilidades de Vida, ofreciendo informaciones básicas y directrices simples para auxiliar técnicos, instructores, o cualquier profesional involucrado con la enseñanza de Habilidades de Vida a través de actividades físicas y deportivas, para que puedan implementar estrategias efectivas y basadas en recomendaciones hechas por la literatura. Con esto en mente, presentamos resultados de investigación y recomendaciones para profesionales, discutiendo lo que constituye una Habilidad de Vida y su importancia, el proceso y modelo de transferencia, el papel del técnico / instructor, condiciones ambientales ideales para enseñar Habilidades de Vida y, finalmente, describir algunos programas comunitarios o escolares desarrollados en países extranjeros, los cuales podrían ser utilizados como modelo para desarrollar y guiar programas nacionales que promuevan la adquisición de Habilidades de Vida entre brasileños.
Palabras-clave: Habilidad de Vida; Desarrollo de Habilidad de Vida; Programas de Habilidad de Vida; Entrenador; Instructor
Sport has recently been the subject of much debate, whether it can be used as a social tool for fostering social inclusion and acquisition of Life Skills, and, on the other hand, in excessively competitive situations and without decent structure sport can be detrimental for any individual’s development and well-being. The positive results of sport and exercise participation are well known, discussed daily, and include psychological benefits, for instance, the development of personal characteristics such as self-esteem, or the opportunity to be part of an activity that can promote interpersonal interactions and social skills; and also, physiological benefits, for instance improved oxygen intake or decreased likelihood of health problems surfacing in the individual’s life, such as coronary disease.
Although this subject is fairly popular and there is a much bigger focus on the positive outcomes of sport participation, what we do not hear about is how exactly do these benefits develop, what environmental conditions are necessary for this to occur?
On the other hand, it is not uncommon for us to witness negative outcomes of sport participation, something that also depends largely on the environmental conditions, for example, in a mastery climate where athletes are motivated to develop their skills and achieve improvements little by little, these will most likely have a positive perception of their participation in the sport by improving his self-esteem, self-efficacy, social support, and many other aspects, while in an ego or performance-oriented climate, the participants will be judged by their skills, fostering competitiveness, which can affect athletes interpersonal relationship with his teammates, or even make and athlete feel afraid of being judged as less skilled than others, leading him to exhibit anti-social behavior, for example, cheating or aggressive play.
The type of climate is only one example of the many environmental aspects that need to be managed in order to allow sport participants to become the best they can, not necessarily in their physical skills, but with the objective of giving these individuals the opportunity to become better people, parents, children, citizens, etc.
A considerable number of athletes we see competing come from underserved backgrounds, with some considering sport as the only way out of these difficult circumstances. Unfortunately, being an underserved individual means that he will have far less opportunity and resources for personal development, while also being exposed to dangerous situations, for example substance abuse, gang violence, etc.
In Brazil, most of the population live below acceptable standards, being exposed to the negative situations aforementioned and many others. At the same time, Brazil is not only known as the Soccer country where every child’s dream is becoming the next soccer superstar, it is actually a place where sport is extremally well seen, with competitive leagues for volley-ball, basketball, futsal, etc.
With this in mind, and specifically with the exorbitant sums involved in soccer, there are a vast number of youths that participate in sports at a very early age, with the objective of playing in competitive leagues, where they will earn salaries that most people in the world will never see in their lifetime.
Considering the socioeconomical scenario we have in Brazil; the fact that most of the youth participating in sport activities come from poor backgrounds, thus having less chances of developing certain skills that can be useful in a variety of different settings; and also that there is a far bigger supply than demand, in other words, most of these kids will not become professional athletes earning thousands, and will have to content themselves in other domains of society, it becomes important to at least provide these individuals with significant sporting experiences, while also trying to embed them with Life Skills that could help them in any other domain of their lives.
With all this in mind, the objective of the current study is to provide a review of the recent literature on Life skills acquisition and development, describing programs from foreign countries and the role that the coach has in influencing the sporting environment, thus being able to provide positive and healthy sporting experiences to these kids.
Participation in sports and physical activities can clearly be considered one of the most promising contexts in which life skills can be fostered, as this is something that is viewed as a fun recreational situation, which not only allows sport programs to attract a high number of participants, but also ameliorates the possibility of perceiving the situation as similar to a classroom and making the children less interested (TROTTIER; ROBITAILLE, 2014).
In Brazil, the number of youths that would benefit from participating in sport programs and activities that seek to promote the acquisition of social skills is considerable, as we possess a large population of underserved children, some of which do not attend school regularly, and thus have a lot of free time on their hands, which can be seen as potentially dangerous considering the environment that surrounds them.
Acquiring and applying life skills learned through sport, could allow these underserved populations to become functional citizens and motivate them to follow a healthier path, attending school, working, while also reducing the probability of them being involved in shady activities. According to the World Health Organization (2010):
“Interventions that support children in the development of life skills can have positive impacts on young people’s opportunities through improving pro-social abilities, educational attainment and employment prospects and can help prevent violence”.
A considerable number of studies have obtained results that support the effect of engagement in physical activities on Life Skills, for instance improve confidence and self-esteem (PRIEST; GASS, 1997), socio-moral development (Danish 2002; Larson; Silverman 2005), personal and social responsibility (HELLISON, 1995; LAWSON, 1999; MARTINEK; SCHILLING; HELLISON, 2006), and social capital (BAILEY, 2005; CRABBE, 2006a), all of which are characteristics that exhibit a negative relation with anti-social behaviours
Still, the development of such assets and Life Skills depend largely on certain characteristics of coaches and instructors. For example, respect, consistency, fairness and credibility are considered crucial for developing positive relationships with participants/athletes. This subject will be discussed with more depth later in this paper.
In recent years, we have observed a change in the way we perceive human and youth development. Initially, the focus was on the behavioral and cognitive deficits presented by an individual, which meant that the objective was to ameliorate their difficulties. Today, some researchers have adopted the Positive Youth development framework, which posits that every individual has some positive assets, which can be worked on in order to begin a positive and healthy development. According to Benson (2017), focusing on already existing assets instead of deficits can provide protection against high-risk situations and prevent some anti-social behaviors.
Life Skills have been defined in a number of ways, and despite small differences they all seem to converge. UNICEF (2003) conceptualizes life skills as “psychosocial abilities for adaptive and positive behavior that enable individuals do deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life”. Gould, Carson, and Blanton (2013) view life skills as internal personal assets, characteristics and skills that can be developed in one setting and then transferred to another. Additionally, it is proposed that these skills can be behavioral (effective communication), cognitive (decision making, goal-setting), interpersonal or intrapersonal.
Some assets that fall under the scope of Life Skills include leadership, emotional regulation, goal-setting, and team-work, all of which can be used to enhance people’s performance, well-being, self-esteem, etc. Bean, Kendellen and Forneris (2016) looked to understand female youth’s perceptions of life skills transfer from participation in the ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ activity-based Life skills program. Through interviews the authors sought to investigate how the program helped females develop and transfer Life-skills through distinct domains and identify practical strategies perceived by these participants. The participants discussed how they developed both intrapersonal skills, in emotional regulation, focus and goal-setting, and interpersonal skills, such as respect, responsibility, social skills and enjoyment of physical activities outside of the program.
In the literature, it has been defined that for a skill to be considered a Life Skill, it must be transferrable to distinct domains in an individual life, for example, the emotional regulation strategies used during a sport competition could also be used effectively during an important academic test. The notion of transfer is considered vital for Life Skills acquisition, and Pierce, Gould and Camiré (2016) highlight three important considerations about the transfer process: 1) Transfer refers to the intermediary process that occurs at the crossroad between skill learning in one context and skill application in another context; 2) skill transfer can manifest itself in different ways depending on the individual’s motivations, existing repertoire of skills, and personal characteristics; 3) individuals constantly move between contexts in daily life and within the definition, sport is one setting with much potential for fostering development.
Kendellen and Camiré (2015) examined the life skills development and transfer experiences of former high school athletes, demonstrating how life skills can not only be applied successfully in other domains, but can be maintained during an individual’s whole life spam. Utilizing semi-structured interviews, all participants made it clear that they felt life skills were developed during their years as an athlete. Based on Self-Determination Theory, the authors organized their results based on the three basic psychological needs. Related to autonomy, the participants discussed how they were able to develop strategies for self-regulation and self-control. Related to competence, participants were enabled to effectively communicate interpersonally. Finally, related to relatedness, participants felt they became more considerate of other people’s feelings and allowed them to become socially responsible members of society.
In the absence of a model that could account for the complexity of the transfer process and also outline variables that could foster or hinder the development and transfer of Life Skills, Pierce, Gould and Camiré (2017) presented a definition and model of life skills transfer in their paper. By means of a critical review of the literature of sport psychology and other learning-based disciplines, these authors offered a model that views the individual learner/athlete as “the integral, active, and constant factor throughout the process of life skills transfer” (PIERCE et al., 2017). The model posits that any individual will begin with a set of individual internal (resilience, motivation, self-efficacy) and external assets (family support, teachers, mentors, etc.) as well as individual autobiographical experiences that influence his ability to comprehend and acquire Life Skills. Building on Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Theory (1994), the authors state that the individual interacts with multiple contexts, and that in each of these contexts there are other variables to be considered, namely, inherent demands of the specific context, for instance in this case, sport, program design, and coach characteristics/strategies.
When these life skills have been internalized by the individual using cognitive processes, he has the possibility of applying it to other contexts. When an individual tries to apply the skills learned, this transfer is influenced by transfer context factors, for instance opportunities for transfer, transfer context similarity, support and reinforcement of transfer, but also by psychological processes, for example satisfaction of basic needs, confidence, level of engagement, etc. All this will lead to positive or negative transfer outcomes. The authors finish the paper providing recommendations for future research based on their model, for instance, researchers should frame their work using specific definitions of Life Skills transfer process, adopting distinct epistemological perspectives and methodological approaches, specific research on each of the eight processes proposed in their model, evaluate these processes in community-based programs, amongst others.
In the literature regarding strategies that are used by those individuals responsible for the development of participants/athletes, Petitpas et al. (2005) developed guidelines to assist coaches/instructors on how to plan youth programs/activities with the objective of developing Life Skills and also reducing the amount of negative sporting experiences. First, is it crucial to provide an adequate context with an environment that encourages autonomy, for example, by giving them the chance to be part of the decision-making process; Second, the presence of caring adults and volunteers is important; Lastly, those responsible for the program/activity should provide opportunities for Life Skills reflection and acquisition, helping them to gain confidence in their ability to apply the skill (FORNERIS; BEAN; HALSALL, 2009).
In relation to positive developmental settings, the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine (2002) established eight important factors: physical and psychological safety, clear, regular and consistent structure, proper adult supervision, relationships that provide support, opportunities to belong, positive social norms, support for efficacy and mattering, opportunities for skill development, and alliance between family, school, and community efforts. Additionally, some strategies that could facilitate the transfer of the Life Skills learned during their sporting experience have been highlighted: creating conditions that reinforce transfer of the skill at the beginning of the activity; creating similarities between the environment of the activity other environments where transfer can take place; providing opportunities to practice transferring the skill during the activity; taking moments to reflect on the experiences; involving peers who had successful participation in the program; and providing follow-up experiences to reinforce learning (DANISH; FORNERIS; WALLACE, 2005).
It is very common for people to believe that sports alone have the quality of fostering competences that include Life Skills. In other words, all we would have to do is offer equipment and space for people to practice sports, and that these have inherent characteristics that spontaneously create opportunities for learning, growth and development. This is considered by the literature as an implicit approach towards Life Skills teaching.
Bean and Forneris (2016) investigated how youth coaches perceived the process of Life Skills development and acquisition by interviewing 23 coaches from 5 distinct organizations. After extensive analysis of the interview transcripts, the authors obtained four themes: Life skills is a by-product of sport participation and transfer simply happens naturally, with many coaches verbalizing their belief that transfer occurs automatically without the necessity of creating learning opportunities, while other hoped that the transfer process had happened but without any intention from their part; If intentionally addressed, it is reactive, in other words, teachable moments were not intentionally planned, with coaches stating that they responded to, rather than created, teachable moments; Coaches recognize the value of intentionally teaching Life Skills, with coaches admitting the importance of teaching Life Skills; Challenges associated with using an explicit approach, specifically education, training and time constraints.
Chinkov and Holt (2015) adopted the perspective of the participant/athlete as to how they perceive the acquisition of life Skills. The authors conducted semi-structured interviews with 16 adults who participated in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and obtained stories that demonstrated how, without direct pedagogical strategies, the acquisition of a range of new skills not only happened, but helped shape their lives, specifically, they discussed skills related to respect for others, perseverance, self-confidence and healthy habits. Additionally, most of the participants recognized the importance of the support and interpersonal interactions with instructors and peers.
Still on the athlete’s perspective, Jones and Lavallee (2009) conducted 30 hours of semi-structured interviews with a single subject that participated in tennis competitions, discussing how life skills development were perceived by the subject. The subject narrated how she believed that an interaction between personal assets, or dispositions, and experiential learning, allowed her to transfer skills learned to different domains. Notwithstanding, there was mention of the necessity for reflection for the skills to be internalized, support from her parents since and early age, similarity of contexts, and confidence for skill application. These results led the authors to concluded that “by encouraging awareness of situational requirements and structuring experiences, in line with positive development, young people can ‘catch’ life skills”(JONES; LAVALLE, 2009).
On the other hand, coaches that have a clear philosophy in regard to providing participants/athletes with the best possible environment for development, using different teaching strategies, is known as an explicit approach. When we consider the empirical findings regarding the benefits of a coach/instructor taking time to deliberately organize developmental activities, the importance of the role that these professionals have is clear (CAMIRÉ; TRUDEL; FORNERIS, 2012; GOULD et al., 2007; HAYDEN et al., 2015; WEISS; BOLTER; KIPP, 2016).
Pierce et al. (2016) offered practical strategies that could be integrated in sporting practices that could smooth the way for Life Skills learning and transfer:
- Prioritize coaching life skills and recognize the need to intentionally foster transfer
- Foster Life skills mastery and reinforce life skills transfer beyond sport: Simply verbalizing the importance of life skills is not sufficient, these skills must be put into practice until they are internalized and become automatic
- Maintain positive coach-athlete relationships: Providing confidence, support and reinforcing the meaningfulness of the skills acquired.
- Create opportunities for athletes to apply life skills outside of sport: encouraging participants/athletes to take part in community services, team fundraising, assuming responsibility for team materials or logistic.
- Develop partnerships with key social agents: As it is very difficult to guarantee the acquisition of Life Skills if it is not supported at home, school and other contexts
- Provide Life Skills boosters: offering vivid examples of athletes that successfully use Life Skills, allowing participants/athletes to perceive the support and confidence for transfer
- Facilitate athlete reflection: Debriefings that simplify the Skill learned, it’s purpose, and in what contexts it can be useful.
With the objective of establishing a model capable of delineating the different levels of explicit/implicit approach, Bean et al. (2018) developed a continuum that could help researchers to conceptualize and comprehend Life Skills acquisition and transfer, while assisting coaches to provide developmentally sound practices.
In their continuum, the authors assess six different aspects at which Life Skills can be developed. The first two levels of the continuum are implicit and reactive in nature and consist of: (1) Structuring the sport context, which refers to creating an environment where people are intrinsically motivated, physically and psychologically safe, have opportunities for social interaction, considering the inherent sport demands and program/activity design; (2) Facilitating a positive climate, by fostering healthy relationships amongst participants and coach, giving opportunities for participation in the decision-making process, and being able to identify and utilize teaching moments effectively.
The remaining levels delineate explicit strategies for teaching Life Skills: (3) Discussing Life skills, by deliberate efforts to address what was learned, encouraging the application in other contexts, and reinforce when applied effectively; (4) Practicing Life skills, by providing athletes with opportunities to apply and refine the skills learned; (5) Discussing transfer, by deliberately addressing the transfer process, helping participants/athletes to identify adequate moments to apply the skill, offer constructive feedback, etc.; (6) Practicing transfer, providing opportunities for transfer by forging partnerships with parents, schools , community, and other social domains.
Considering all the evidence provided by studies that have investigated the impact coaches/instructors have on their athletes/participants, and also by the literature on explicit/implicit approach to teaching Life Skills, it is important to consider the importance that coaches have, and the barriers that can affect the effectiveness of their approach.
The literature supports the notion that coaches are vital for facilitating positive athlete outcomes (FRASER-THOMAS; CÔTÉ; DEAKING, 2005), and that the leadership characteristics of those in leadership positions are critical for successful outcomes in positive youth development programs (PETERSON, 2004). We have already mentioned that coaches should seek to establish positive relationships with their athletes, thus this relationship and leadership qualities should be investigated as a causal variable for positive youth development. With this in mind Vella, Oades and Crowe (2013) examined the relationship between coach transformational leadership behaviors, the perceived quality of the coach-athlete relationship, team success, and the positive developmental experiences of adolescent soccer players. Data were taken from 455 adolescent athletes aged between 11 and 18 years, and each athlete completed the Differentiated Transformational Leadership Inventory for Youth Sport (CALLOW et al., 2009), the Coach–Athlete Relationship Questionnaire (JOWETT; NTOUMANIS, 2003), and the Youth Experience Survey for Sport (HANSEN; LARSON, 2002). Their results demonstrated that coach transformational leadership behavior has a moderate positive correlation with athletes’ developmental experiences, which is predicted by the interaction of the coach’s behavior and his relationship with the athlete. Additionally, coach’s behavior that influenced athletes the most included individual consideration, intellectual stimulation, and appropriate role modelling.
Recently, the 3 C’s model, that account for the coach-athlete relationship, has been developed (JOWETT, 2003; JOWETT; NTOUMANIS, 2004; JOWETT; TIMSON-KATCHIS, 2005) and include three factors: (1) Closeness or mutual respect; (2) Commitment or effort to maintain the relationship; (3) Complementarity or reciprocity. This model can be used by practitioners and coaches to identify aspects of the relationship that warrant more investment. In Gould et al.’s (2007) study of award winning High School coaches, their beliefs and strategies for developing Life skills, support for the 3 C’s model was obtained after analyzing the responses coaches gave in in-depth phone interviews. The coach’s responses reflected how they, while consistently reinforcing their players, this process was individualized, considering the players past behavior, emotional state, and other contextual factors. Additionally, the coaches in the study were aware of both positive and negative outcomes of parental influence, trying to establish healthy relationships with parents and engage them in their children’s sport experience.
Of course, we cannot expect that every coach possesses the awareness and education of more experienced ones. Forneris et al. (2015) and Jones, Armour and Cushion (2003) support the idea that a coach’s competence in adopting a positive youth development approach depends on their own experiences, knowledge and life story. Nevertheless, these coaches can find clear recommendations in the literature relating to ideal conditions for encouraging Life Skills acquisition and development. For example, extensive researches from Smith and Smoll (BARNETT; SMOLL; SMITH, 1992; SMITH; SMOLL; CURTIS, 1979; SMOLL et al., 1993; SMITH; SMOLL; BARNETT, 1995) demonstrated that coaches that provide more positive reinforcement, specific procedures on how to develop skills, and do not use punishment behavior, for example screaming or humiliating, are more liked and respected by their athletes, which in turn are more satisfied, motivated, and less anxious, all of which constitute conditions for adequate development of Life Skills.
In a study designed to examine Portuguese coaches’ perceptions on their role on Life Skills and positive youth development, Santos, Camiré and Campos (2016) found scarce evidence of specific strategies that these coaches used during their training, as the only strategies these were able to describe were creating a pleasurable environment and addressing, superficially, life skills, characterizing a more implicit approach. One reason hypothesized by the authors was that “mainstream coach education programs lack content that is relevant to positive youth development, instead maintaining a focus on technical and tactical skills” (VELLA et al., 2013).
Through numerous studies, is has been made clear that while some coaches are willing to adopt more explicit approaches for Life skills development, there are barrier that restrict these individual’s potential that need to be considered. The most common barriers quoted by instructors/coaches are the lack of formal education, excessive focus on competition, lack of time and support. In a study developed by Whitley et al. (2017), some barriers for holistic coaching in South Africa were identified by organizing focus groups and individual interviews. The most cited barriers were: (1) Competitive nature of sport, with coaches feeling pressured to win at all times, focusing more on technical and tactical skills; (2) Life Skills absent or peripheral in coaching philosophy, which depends on personal values and experiences; (3) Lack of coaching knowledge and holistic coach education; (4) Lack of time; (5) Credibility issues with Life Skills, as most youth have a hard time believing in the lessons taught; (6) Difficulties measuring Life skills development.
Although there are many barriers that could hinder the teaching, acquisition and transfer of Life Skills, some of these problems seem less complex to solve, for example, providing coaches and instructors with education regarding simple guidelines on how to teach Life skills. There already are programs that focus on combining the participation in physical activities and sports with the teaching of Life Skills, allowing children, some of which underserved, to develop skills that could help them in other contexts of their lives, for instance school, job, interpersonal interactions, etc. These programs highlight the importance of choosing coaches/instructors that possess specific knowledge on the subject. This paper will now describe both school and community-based programs.
On the paper published by Kendellen et al. (2015), we can find a description of the developmental process of a national curriculum to be implemented in two existing programs: Golf in Schools (2009), which will be implemented by more than 2900 schools in Canada in 2017, and helps teachers plan and deliver physical education classes that teach golf-specific skills; Future Links Learn to Play (1996), which provides youth the chance to learn golf and consists of seven core modules that include Golf 101, playing and competition, mind matters, values, parenting, skill development, and fitness and health. When creating the Life Skills framework to be applied in the programs, they selected 8 primary life skills, of which, perseverance, goal-setting, emotional regulation, honesty, teamwork, and respect. Additionally, the authors developed four principles that should guide instructors: Focus on one life skills per lesson; introduce the life skill at the beginning of the lesson; implement strategies to teach life skills throughout the lesson; debrief the life skill at the end of the lesson. A pilot was conducted to test the qualities of the framework, which provided the authors with program strengths and recommendations, one of which was to develop a training program for instructors. When developing the program for instructors, the authors identified 5 core learning outcomes: (1) Be conscious of the importantl role life skills can play in every children’s development; (2) Comprehend the importance of teaching life skills through golf; (3) Identify their role in teaching life skills through golf; (4) become familiar with the life skills framework; (5) feel comfortable implementing life skill discussions and activities within their lesson plans.
Considering their experiences developing a life skills framework in collaboration with Golf in Schools and Future Links Learn to Play, the authors conclude that “more sport organizations are encouraged to take initiative and reach out to sport psychology researchers who can help create evidence-informed knowledge products (e.g., life skills curriculum) that can be integrated into existing programming efforts”.
Another well-known program called Teaching Responsibility through Physical Activity (HELLISON et al. 2000), consists of five levels that help students understand how to be, and the importance of being, responsible: (1) Respecting the rights and feelings of others; (2) understanding the role of effort in improving oneself in physical activity and life; (3) being self-directed and responsible for one’s own well-being; (4) beings sensitive and responsible for the well-being of others; (5) applying what you have learned in different non-physical contexts. The program’s effectiveness is supported by a thorough examination made by Cummings (1997), with control groups displaying 34% school dropout rate, while none had dropped out in the group that took part in the program.
The last foreign community program described in this paper is the Sport United to Promote Education and Recreation, commonly referred to as SUPER (DANISH, 2002). This program is based on the winner of the Lela Rowland Prevention Award, GOAL (DANISH, 2002), and it invests effort to help participants use a variety of mental and physical skills, recognize situations that warrant the use of these skills, and their effective application in distinct contexts. It’s specific objectives are that each participant comprehend the fact that (1) there is a relationship between performance excellence in sport and personal excellence in life, (2) mental skills can enhance both sport performance and personal performance, (3) it is important to set and attain goals in sport and life, (4) road- blocks to goals can be overcome, (5) effective participation in sport requires being healthy and physically fit. Notwithstanding, the program is peer-led and consists of 18 modules, with participants being involved in learning the physical skills related to a specific sport; learning life skills related to sports in general; and playing the sport.
In Brazil there is a scarcity not only on research involving Life Skills, which present virtually none related to sport contexts, but in programs that could provide youth, especially at-risk, an opportunity to have fun, stay out of dysfunctional situations, and develop relevant assets for their future. This is not to say that there isn’t an effort to supply children with opportunities to be involved in physical activity or sport, but these programs rarely adopt a conscious framework of positive youth development with strategies to deliberately teach Life Skills. Furthermore, not even in professional soccer clubs, which supposedly are organizations that concentrate most of the resources in Brazil’s sports, and thus should have a clear philosophy of developing holistically the children involved, demonstrate a willingness to instill Life Skills lessons in their extensive training schedule. In a study by Galatti et al. (2016), the strategies and pedagogical procedures used by eight coaches to foster Life skills and soccer-specific skills were examined. Their results indicated that only one of the coaches directly mentioned the wider personal development of the athletes, while three coaches stated that they try to apply pedagogical procedures to foster moral and educational values. Overall, although the coaches recognized the importance of teaching Life skills, these skills were addressed only in an implicit manner, while soccer-specific skills were taught explicitly. In conclusion, while coaches comprehend the relevance of Life Skills, the approach in youth soccer clubs is still based on a traditional view, practically focusing only on sport-specific skills, leaving the acquisition of Life Skills to chance.
While Brazil is a country with a lot of difficulties, which impacts the relevance society will place on the development of life skills, as these are interested in more pressing matters, there are a few social programs that strive to promote social inclusion.
A study developed by Rossi Jr. et al. (2014) examined the effects of a program called “Segundo Tempo” in Feira de Santana, Bahia (Brazil), which is funded by the Brazilian government, and seeks to democratize at-risk youth’s access to sports in public schools and other impoverished contexts, fostering social inclusion. This major sport educational initiative reaches more than one million youth in more than 1300 small to medium sized cities (KNIJKNIK; TAVARES, 2016). According to the Brazilian Ministry of Sport, the initiative’s specific objectives are: “the development of social values, the improvement of physical capacities and motor skills, the enhancement of life quality (self-esteem, social integration and health) reduced exposure to social risks (drugs, prostitution, teenage pregnancy, crime, child labour) and awareness of sports practice, ensuring the exercise of citizenship. (MINISTERIO DO ESPORTE, 2007).
The program is established in public schools which provide approximately 100 youth with: (a) work on the counter-round of the school (the “second half”); (b) provide at least two team sports and one individual sport, at least three times a week, lasting two to four hours daily, and (c) offer additional activities such as tutoring in homework, additional lessons and cultural activities. The author’s results indicated that the participants were able to develop social inclusion, integral education, and civic education, all of which relate to Life skills. The author’s highlight the importance of establishing partnerships with different sectors and community leaderships.
In a more recent analysis of the Segundo Tempo (Second Half) program applied in Vitória (ES, Brazil), of which the Olympic committee is the biggest supporter, Knijnik and Tavares (2016) concluded that: although it represents a clear advance in government sports education policies, both its organizational methods and the lack of a clear pedagogy seem to limit the scope of the Second Half program to sports teaching. Considering that the most important government sanctioned program for providing social inclusion and attempting to teach Life Skills is considerably limited, the objective of this paper makes itself very clear, as there is an urgent necessity for developing programs that could be applied without using an abundance of resources, education of instructors/coaches, and
Considering the information offered by the literature on Life Skills, it seems very clear that people’s sports or physical activity experiences could be extremely valuable for fostering not only sport-specific skills, but a set of skills that could be applied in a variety of contexts that could facilitate the individual’s adaptation to the complexities of society, called Life Skills. These consist of basic internal and external capacities, for example learning how to set goals and effective communication with others, that can be learned, through an adequately structured environment, coaching strategies, and other aspects, and applied in other contexts of their daily lives, allowing them to succeed in their jobs, academic studies, personal relationships, etc.
In Brazil, a third world country with a number of social problems, with specifically large portions of the population not possessing basic skills to cope with the demands of everyday life, and a passion for sports that is characteristic of Brazilians, strategies that foster life skills acquisition and transfer could easily be applied in the process of developing young athletes, and additionally, community and school-based programs that have sport as it’s nucleus could use some of these strategies to guarantee the best results, preparing every individual for life in society and empowering them to discover new opportunities that don’t necessarily relate to sport.
Curiously, Brazil is a country where the population could benefit from participating in sport and physical activities that are structured based on guidelines offered by Life Skills literature, but, although there are studies that address the psychosocial aspects of sport, there are very few that address specifically Life skills. Hopefully, in the future there will be more interest in studies involving this subject, for example, evaluating Brazilian youth’s perception on Life Skills acquisition, coach’s knowledge about and willingness to adopt an explicit approach to Life Skills teaching, develop social programs that can effectively enhance athletes/participants lives.
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