Young people and development

Our research investigates the diverse ways in which sport, physical activity and physical education contribute to personal, social, and societal development, with respect to children and young people.

Utilising strongly interdisciplinary approaches and diverse research methods, we undertake this work at local/community, regional, national, and transnational levels.

Our academic staff are happy to discuss research collaboration, as well as research studentships and self-funded PhDs. To find out more about academics working in this research area, please click on the 'People' tab below.


Our growing community of scholars examines the psychosocial development of children and young people in/through sport and physical activity across recreational, educational and competitive contexts, with a focus on understanding and optimising the experience and wellbeing of participants.

We investigate the ‘sport for development’ field, where sport is used to pursue different social development goals among young people, such as greater social inclusion, health education, and crime reduction.

We identify how diverse stakeholders – such as families and care-givers, sport and educational organisations, NGOs, local authorities, national government, and intergovernmental organisations – may work more effectively to secure diverse developmental benefits and long-term outcomes for young people, in and through sport, physical activity, and physical education.

Our current research specialisms include:

  • Tackling crime through sport
  • The role of outdoor engagement on young people’s development and wellbeing
  • The role of parents and coaches in youth sport development
  • Young people’s development in sport through Physical Education.

Real-world impact

Here are some examples of where our research has had an impact:

  • Sport, youth employability and wellbeing – Promoting developing resilience and the way that coaches promote positive integration of young people from all backgrounds and particularly those with disabilities.
  • Highlighting opportunities created by disability-inclusive sport – A study examining the Flyerz hockey programme has revealed how taking an actively inclusive approach to sport can result in widespread benefit for players and their communities.
  • Ensuring children are physically ready to start school – The Early Movers website provides practical tips to help early year practitioners and parents feel confident in delivering physical development opportunities to children.
  • Helping children to develop resilience – Highlighting the significant benefits of outdoor play for children and it's role in helping them to develop their emotional resilience.


If you would like to collaborate with our researchers, engage in consultancy or discuss potential PhD projects, please contact them using the information on their staff profile.

Our research staff and their areas of research interest are listed below:

  • Dr Steven Bradbury – Examining racialised inequities in sports participation, coaching and leadership.
  • Professor Lorraine Cale – The promotion of physical activity and healthy lifestyles within schools, within and beyond the physical education curriculum
  • Dr Ash Casey – Models-based practice in physical education, teacher education and technology-enhanced pedagogy.
  • Dr Janine Coates – Examining factors influencing marginalised young people’s engagement in physical activity and sport; and the health and wellbeing benefits outdoor learning (e.g. Forest School), with a focus on inclusion and equality.
  • Dr Ed Cope – Coaching behaviour, coach learning, and educational learning design.
  • Professor Paul Downward – Social, economic, health and well-being effects of sport and physical activity.
  • Professor Richard Giulianotti – Sport and globalisation, social inclusion (particularly the ‘sport for development and peace’ sector), youth, sport mega-events, crime and deviance, sport and policing/security, migration, sport policy, and social theory.
  • Dr Carolynne Mason – Impact of participation in sport and physical activity on social outcomes in marginalised communities.
  • Hayley Musson – Workplace physical activity and health; interventions to increase physical activity and reduce sedentary behaviour; translation of research evidence into practice; physical inactivity in young people; and physical activity promotion in young people.
  • Dr Rachel Sanford – Young people’s development in and through sport, physical activity and physical education.
  • Professor Lauren Sherar – Understanding and intervening on physical activity and sedentary behaviour to improve physical and mental health.
  • Dr Christopher Spray – Motivational processes in physical education/youth sport and their implications for teaching, coaching and parenting.
  • Dr Julie Stirrup – Issues relating to equity and identity, embodiment, and education.
  • Dr Caron Walpole – University Teacher in Sport Management and Research Associate (Safer Together Through Sport)

Current PhD projects

Our doctoral researchers (PhDs) include:

  • Natasha Wilson – Beyond the School gates: Public pedagogy and its broader role in the health education of children.
  • Jike Yang – What role digital technologies and physical education play for young people’s physical activity promotion and health-related knowledge learning.

To find out more about PhD opportunities in the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, visit our Postgraduate research webpages.

Experts in Sport podcast: What role does community sport play in tackling serious youth violence?

With youth violence continuing to be a serious issue in UK society, this episode of the Experts in Sport’ podcast looks at the role sport can play in supporting those at risk. Host Martin Foster is joined by Carolynne Mason and Graham Helm, National Doorstep Sport Advisor for StreetGames.


Listen here