As the literature is far from being unanimous in regards to the psychosocial benefits of sports practice, we conducted a preliminary qualitative study with nine teenagers who participated in a group sporting challenge to better understand: (1) youths’ perceptions regarding the program’s most important dimensions and (2) its effects in the physical, psychological and social spheres of their life. Following these results, we highlighted six driving principles we consider to be significant to interventions involving sports as a tool for psychosocial development: (1) cooperation
amongst youth; (2) facilitators’ discipline, direct involvement and positive attitude; (3) moving the youths beyond their physical, psychological and social comfort zones; (4) the interplay between enjoyment and effort; (5) constant innovation in training content; (6) risk as a driving force for cohesion and social ties.

Keywords

Adolescent, alternative intervention techniques, psychological perspectives, social perspectives, sport

A significant number of institutional programs are intended for troubled youths – young people facing adjustment difficulties, behavioral problems, academic failure and dropout or mental health difficulties. These institutional programs usually favor approaches based on verbal expression, such as counseling, psychotherapy and psychosocial interventions (Boutereau-Tichet et al., 2005, Gendreau, 2002). Therapeutic alliances in these approaches are generally based on a dialectical interaction (discussion, introspection, analysis) that supports cognitive or reflexive processes. The aim is therefore to encourage problem verbalization and explore solutions in a welcoming and confidential environment (Clark, 2007). The therapeutic setting is often standardized and interventions are set and agreed upon in the form of plans. These approaches also tend to favor prescheduled meetings in set locations, where participants are usually seated. Several studies have shown the usefulness of these approaches in intervening with troubled youth. A meta-analysis by Cooper (2009) on non-directive, humanist interventions practiced in British high schools noted that these are related to an improved sense of well-being and academic performance. Narrative-based interventions, such as cognitive-behavioral approaches, have in turn shown effectiveness in the treatment of anxiety (Albano, 2009), depression (Gill and Brannigan, 2008) and antisocial behavior (Townsend, 2007) in North America. However, participation rates and commitment of troubled youths to counseling or psychosocial interventions remain considerable challenges (Binder et al., 2008; Coatsworth et al., 2001; Santisteban et …

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