One of the objectives of the project Future for Children ++ is to develop a European-based coach education programme for youth sport. In order to do that, our team explored the necessary key components, providing an overview regarding the problem at hand, defining the term “inclusion” as well as barriers to organized sports, which low-SES families tend to face regularly.
In this article, we establish a relation between low-SES children ans sport:
It is well established that PA has a beneficial effect on overall health across the lifespan. In this context, we need to distinguish between general PA and participation in sports. The former describes PA which occurs throughout daily life (e.g. playing, means of transportation, domestic work), while the latter addresses participation in organized sports at school or in clubs. This differentiation becomes relevant when discussing social inclusion of children from under-privileged families and neighborhoods as there is no significant association between SES and overall PA, which means that the PA level of children is independent of their SES.
Findings suggest that sports participation during youth can promote healthy habits later in life. Those who participate in sports during childhood and youth tend to smoke and drink less, have a healthier diet, and/or are more physically active during adulthood. From a long-term and preventive perspective, this underscores the importance of the role of organized sports for children. In addition to the beneficial effects of general PA and sports participation on the physical health in children and adolescents, scientific evidence also shows a benefit of PA on mental health, especially during adolescence.
In summary, children can benefit immensely from sports participation during their up-bringing as well as later throughout adulthood. As evidence suggests, SES does not influence the efficacy, yet low-SES children might have more difficulty finding access to organized sports in the first place. This can be due to certain barriers of either personal nature (e.g. bad experiences, peer disapproval, self-consciousness, competition) or practical nature (e.g. cost, time, and location).
Furthermore, children who live in low-SES conditions often find themselves socially isolated and lack adequate health services and eating behaviors. Therefore, it seems plausible to provide low-SES children with access to organized sport offerings as a first step. Secondly, once initial engagement is established, long-term participation and strong engagement should be encouraged. Thirdly, in the attempt to make sure sports participation does not merely lead to an alleviation of symptoms, children should be provided with the opportunity to gain knowledge on health-related topics outside of exercise (e.g. nutrition), in order to counteract malnutrition, for instance.