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Sport is viewed as a setting with potential to offer social benefits to youth participants and alleviate broader social problems. Such promise requires intentionality of sport program philosophy, design, and execution. When designed with intentionality, youth sport can bring about positive change for individual youth and societies. This paper overviews the broad literature base, exploring 2 approaches to the promotion of social development through youth sport. One explores social- and/or life-skill development through sport for individual participants, whereas the other examines the role of sport in addressing broader social problems. Evidence-based strategies for fostering social development through youth sport are synthesized, providing guidance to coaches, administrators, youth workers, and others engaged in youth sport design, and exemplar programs that use youth sport as a vehicle for social development are presented. Limitations in youth sport research are summarized, and a call is made for more intentionally designed youth sport to promote social development.
The author is with the College of Social Work, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH.