Research Summary

Increasing Participation in After-School Sport and Physical Activity among Children and Youth: A Case Study of Providers in Ontario, Canada


Increasing Participation in After-School Sport and Physical Activity among Children and Youth: A Case Study of Providers in Ontario, Canada

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YouthREX Research Summaries ask Just Six Questions of research publications on key youth issues. These summaries get at what the youth sector needs to know in two pages or less!

1. What was this research about?
This research explored strategies for increasing youth participation in after-school sports and physical activities (AASPA). The researcher explored two questions:

  • From the perspective of after-school sports providers, what are the main barriers to youth participating in programs?
  • How can the experiences and participation of children in after-school sports programs be enhanced?

2. Where did the research take place?
This research took place in Ontario, Canada. Data was gathered from nine diverse regions across Ontario, including Kitchener-Waterloo, St. Catharines, Burlington, Toronto, Kingston, Ottawa, Sudbury, and Thunder Bay.

3. Who is this research about?
This research is about youth in the province of Ontario in the age group of late childhood to adolescence.

“Only about 12% of Ontario children and youth met or exceeded the recommended level of daily physical activity and many fail to use the after-school time to engage in active sport and physical activity” (p. 2).

4. How was this research done?
This research used both quantitative and qualitative data obtained from after-school providers. An online survey gathered data on youth participation factors and their potential remedies to participation barriers. Personal interviews and focus group interviews were semi-structured around the intrapersonal, interpersonal, environmental factors that impact youth participation in after-school programs. Participants for the interviews and focus groups were purposefully chosen. Confidentiality of all participants was ensured through the use of pseudonyms. Results from the quantitative and qualitative data were compared and triangulated.

5. What are the key findings?
The evaluation research process clarified the Outreach Worker Service (OWS)’s primary program goals, service objectives, program participants, and theoretical framework:

Program Goals:

  • To promote the wellbeing of youth, schools and communities by increasing youth’s 40 developmental assets to prevent/minimize the problematic use of alcohol and other drugs and substances, and related mental health concerns with four groups of youth through building therapeutic relationships, asset development and application, education, and community involvement.
  • To be part of the culture of the school by connecting with youth, families, the school, and broader community. This includes community development, recognizing that communities within the Outreach Worker Service are at different stages of engagement.

Service Objectives:

  • Build therapeutic relationships with youth.
  • Develop youth assets.
  • Educate youth, staff and community.
  • Develop the community.

Program Participants:
OSW staff struggled with the tension between a positive youth development (PYD) approach that focuses on youth assets and the characterization and assessment of the youth as ‘at-risk’. OSW staff work most with youth who have low developmental assets, but also with youth experiencing minor mental health issues, and youth with low social life skills. Males and females have different needs, as do on-reserve and off-reserve Aboriginal youth.

Program Theory:
Researchers identified PYD as a theoretical framework that aligned with the program because of it can be applied to all youth (not only ‘at-risk’ youth), it recognizes that development occurs in different interconnected contexts, sees youth as resources, and works to promote youth assets.

6. Why does it matter for youth work?
This study suggests that in order to get more youth to participate in after-school sport programs, greater acceptance and accessibility measures have to be put in place. Youth workers can create integrated solutions to the above-mentioned barriers across the following three dimensions:

  • To address personal barriers to participation, youth workers could initiate programs at the local level that are culturally sensitive to the needs of the youth. This would help them overcome previous negative experiences. Youth workers could use social media to create awareness about the importance of ASSPA and the benefits of the same for one’s physical and emotional wellbeing.
  • To address interpersonal barriers to AASPA participation, youth workers can design initiatives that are accessible and enjoyable for the entire family or community.
  • To address environmental barriers to AASPA participation, youth workers could liaise with schools, community organizations, and ASSPA providers to develop programs that foster better collaboration and use of community resources to increase the popularity and accessibility of ASSPA programs for youth. This synergy could promote youth wellness and ensure coordinated, youth-friendly communities.

Lodewyk, K. R. (2013). Increasing participation in after-school sport and physical activity among children and youth: A case study of providers in Ontario, Canada. Revue phénEPS/PHEnex Journal, 5(2). Retrieved from

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