Conditions for Successfully Increasing Disadvantaged Adolescents’ Engagement in and Development through Volunteering in Community Sport

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2803

Conditions for Successfully Increasing Disadvantaged Adolescents’ Engagement in and Development through Volunteering in Community Sport


  • Evi Buelens Research group Sport & Society, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium
  • Marc Theeboom Research group Sport & Society, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium
  • Jikkemien Vertonghen Research group Sport & Society, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium
  • Kristine De Martelaer Research Group of Motor Skills and Didactics, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium, and Division of Education, Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Utrecht University, The Netherlands


Abstract  A considerable number of adolescents in Western societies live in socially vulnerable situations. Approaches to improve this situation ultimately aim to make institutional changes through a focus on individual development. With regard to the latter, there have been high expectations regarding sport volunteering’s contribution to human capital development. Nevertheless, little understanding of the underlying conditions for, and possible outcomes of sport volunteering exists. This study’s aim was twofold: (1) to assess the conditions necessary to develop the human capital of disadvantaged adolescents through volunteering in community sport, and (2) to assess to what extent human capital can be developed. A qualitative research design was used to attain deeper insight into these conditions within eight community sport programs in Flanders (Northern Dutch-speaking region of Belgium), a setting that is not often used for youth developmental practices. Data were collected on repeated occasions over the course of each program through qualitative methods with local sport services and social partner organizations (N = 26) and participating adolescents (N = 26). Inductive analysis identified two categories of necessary conditions, (1) valuing and recognizing adolescents, and (2) informal and experiential learning. Results further showed the achievement of two types of perceived human capital developmental outcome (i.e., personal and interpersonal competences) through the fulfilment of these conditions. Findings also showed that although two of these programs made use of a more critical pedagogical approach to youth development by encouraging participants, not only to reflect on, but also to critically take part in the transformation of their own position within society; critical youth empowerment was not reached in the majority of the programs.


Keywords  community sport; disadvantaged adolescents; human capital; volunteering


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17645/si.v5i2.895