Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

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

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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



© Evi Buelens, Marc Theeboom, Jikkemien Vertonghen, Kristine De Martelaer. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.