Sports as a passport to success: Life skill integration in a positive youth development program

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Michael Hemphill, Assistant Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:

Abstract: Background: Sport-based youth development (SBYD) programs aim to teach life skills to youth within a physical activity context. An explicit objective of most SBYD programs is that youth learn to apply, or transfer, life skills beyond the sports program. Limited research has been conducted on the cognitive processes that help youth understand how life skills apply within and beyond sports. Purpose: This study uses a conceptual framework on transfer of life skills to examine the role of life skills in an SBYD program. Research questions include: (1) how does the SBYD program integrate the teaching of life skills, (2) how do youth participants experience the life skills in the boxing program, and (3) how do youth participants perceive the life skills impact them beyond the program. Methodology: This research took place at three community boxing academies in New Zealand. The three academies were selected because they are affiliated with a boxing program that is committed to implementing a life skills framework called the Passport to Success. Forty-one youth (31 boys, 10 girls) across the three sites participated in focus groups interviews about their experience in the program. Additionally, observations of program implementation documented the daily routines of each boxing academy. Using a qualitative case study design, inductive analysis and constant comparative methods were used to identify emergent themes. Findings: Youth participants perceived life skills to be a foundational component of the boxing program. The life skills were presented to youth through the ‘Passport to Success’, a document featuring eight key life skills. The coaches focused on the Passport to Success in several ways, including setting an expectation that youth memorize the life skills to demonstrate their commitment. Several youth participants discussed learning valuable lessons around the life skills. Finally, youth were able to describe scenarios which demonstrated how the life skills connected with other areas of their lives. Conclusion: Life skills implementation was guided by the Passport to Success and an expectation that youth develop positive relationships in the gym. A routine strategy for memorizing the Passport to Success provided a clear example of youth learning the meaning of life skills in the context of sports. The youth participants demonstrated cognitive connections in their explanation of the value of life skills beyond the boxing program. Using the conceptual framework on transfer [Jacobs and Wright 2018. “Transfer of Life Skills in Sport-Based Youth Development Programs: A Conceptual Framework Bridging Learning to Application.” Quest 70 (1): 81–99] helps to explain the cognitive connections youth participants make between life skills in a sports program and their application beyond sports.

Additional Information

Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 24(4), 390–401
Language: English
Date: 2019
Positive youth development, transfer, life skills

Email this document to