Book Chapter Details
Mandatory Fields
MacPhail, A.
Inclusion and Exclusion Through Youth Sport
Young People's Voices in Sport
Optional Fields

Like sports, some people would think maybe that physical education is something that you kind of have to do in school, and then people then who might think they're kind of sporty people and join a club, and activity...well, it's their choice and they kind of do it outside of school and in their own time, kind of like that. That one would be by choice and would, maybe not’ (Senior level active girl, Woods, Moyna, Quinlan et al., 2010).

Well physical activity would be like swimming or, would that be sports? I'm confused, um’ (Inactive girl, Woods, Moyna, Quinlan et al., 2010).

The young people’s responses above to a question asking them to differentiate between physical education, physical activity and sport conveys a certain level of ambiguity, and perhaps this is understandable.  Moreover, providing a definitive definition of sport would be illogical  in a chapter that seeks  to present young people’s voices on their experiences of what they construct as sport, acknowledging that sports themselves are ‘contested (physical) activities’ (Coakley, 2004) and that ‘sport’ is more than just a physical activity. It is feasible, however, to identify some commonalities when young people define and discuss their experiences of sport. These shared views relate to a wide range of informal and formal recreational and fitness-related team and individual activities, competition, being a member of a sport club, concern with improving performance, presence of a coach and being motivated internally and / or by external rewards.

This chapter foregrounds what young people convey, using their own voices, about their sport experiences (i.e., what they construct to be sport experiences) and how such experiences may result in young people feeling included or excluded in youth sport. Inclusion is about equal opportunities for all young people, whatever their background, experiences and circumstances, and has tended to focus particularly on disadvantaged and under-represented young people in sport (Collins, 2004). Other authors have examined social inclusion by examining the interface between issues of equity, equality and social justice (acknowledging that clear definitions for each remain contested) that arise when young people feel included in or excluded from sport (Hayes & Stidder, 2003; Penney, 2002). Arguably, exclusionary practices in sport can arise from stereotypical views and expectations of sport and resulting assumptions that not only impact a young person’s (lack of) current involvement but also future participation. Moreover, it is important to remember that poverty has been identified as the core of exclusion (Collins, 2004), although there is limited evidence about the extent to which young people are either conscious of this at a young age or can clearly articulate the issue in their own voice.

The key purpose of this chapter is to allow young people’s voices in sport to be heard, rather than adults’ recollections of their involvement in sport as youngsters. Previous studies have reported, retrospectively, adults’ reflections on the sport they experienced as a child (e.g. David, 2005). However, if sport is to be valuable and valued in young people’s lives, it is imperative that the voices of young people inform and help to create appropriate, worthwhile and meaningful sporting provision.  It is also important to remember that discrimination against individuals or populations in sport is extensive and well-documented (Fernandez-Balboa, 2000). Concerns have been raised about issues of (in)equity in sport and the influence of the interlinking of a number of  characteristics including social class, disposable income, levels of educational attainment, location, gender, ethnicity, (dis)ability, sexuality and at-risk youth.

What this means is that young people’s voices are always positioned within a range of physical, social, geographical, and economic factors and, moreover, that  some of the potential inclusion/exclusion factors  may not yet have arisen due to the young person’s age and  exposure to particular life opportunities. What young people convey about their experiences of sport will therefore, to some extent, be positioned by their exposure to, and experience of, different stages of sport participation. The development model of sports participation accommodates a progression from the ‘sampling phase’ to the ‘specialising years’ and then to the ‘investment/recreation phase’, acknowledging that at any stage of involvement young people can choose to move to take part on a recreational basis or drop out (Côté & Hay, 2002). It is not always possible however, from the available extracts of young people’s voices, to match the stage of sport participation with what young people share about their experiences of sport.

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