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Examining sport clubs as 'missing spaces' for young people in care – new study

Loughborough University academics have secured a second prestigious British Academy small grant to explore care experienced young people’s engagements with sport clubs and coaches.

The project builds upon the ’Right to Be Active’ project – a collaboration between Loughborough University and Leeds Beckett University which focused more broadly on the sport and physical activity experiences of ‘care-experienced’ young people.

This earlier work indicated that despite the potential development benefits of participation in sport and physical activity, many care experienced youth struggle to access sport clubs and structured coaching activities in a sustained manner.

The new two-year research project will examine young people’s engagements with sport clubs and coaches, helping to understand the current situation, identify learning needs, and informing future practice in this area, with the intention of supporting more care experienced young people to access sport clubs more often.

The research team plan to engage with care experienced youth, sports clubs and coaching practitioners in a broad exploration of this landscape, with the aim of reaching as many participants as possible. The data gathered will be used to inform best practice guidelines, coach education and practitioner CPD.  

Lead researcher, Dr Rachel Sandford, of Loughborough’s School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences (SSEHS), said:

“The developmental potential of sport and physical activity is well-documented, and we know that sport clubs and coaching activities can be valuable in this respect. However, care experienced youth often report difficulties in accessing and maintaining connections to these contexts, so we are looking to facilitate some change here by working with both young people and clubs to impact practice.”

As with the ‘Right to Be Active’ (R2BA) study, comic strips will once again be used to engage participants and illustrate young people’s feelings towards sporting activity.

Co-investigator on the project, Dr Oliver Hooper, also of the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, added:

“The Right to Be Active project afforded care experienced young people a valuable opportunity to share their experiences – both good and bad – of sport and physical activity. We are thrilled that this follow-up project allows us to continue this conversation and focus attention on an issue that care experienced youth themselves identified as important.”

The research project is due to commence in April 2021 with initial findings expected in spring 2023.

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 21/68

Notes for editors

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2021 QS World University Rankings and University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2019.

Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 7th in the Guardian University League Table 2021, 5th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020 and 6th in The UK Complete University Guide 2021.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.