Young People’s Perceptions of the Influence of a Sport-for-Social-Change Program on Their Life Trajectories

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Young People’s Perceptions of the Influence of a Sport-for-Social-Change Program on Their Life Trajectories


  • Rob Cunningham School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
  • Anne Bunde-Birouste School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
  • Patrick Rawstorne School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
  • Sally Nathan School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia


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Abstract:  Sport-for-social-change programs focusing on enhancing young people’s personal and social development emerged in the early to mid-2000s. Children and adolescents who participated in early programs are now adults, providing an opportunity to examine whether these programs have had any influence on their life trajectories. The Football United program has been operating in Sydney, Australia, since 2006 and is used as a case study in this article. This qualitative study draws on 20 interviews conducted in 2018 with a diverse sample of past participants of the program. Key findings were that participants perceived that the relationships they formed at Football United have had a substantial impact on their life trajectories, including influencing education and career decisions. These relationships were found to increase participants’ social capital, creating diverse connections with people and institutions within and external to their geographical communities. This study also found participants embraced a long-term commitment to ‘give back’ to their local geographical, cultural, and ethnic communities, which they attributed to their participation in the program.

Keywords:  Australia; football; social capital; sport; sport-for-social change; Sydney; youth development

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/si.v8i3.2828


© Rob Cunningham, Anne Bunde-Birouste, Patrick Rawstorne, Sally Nathan. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.