Engaging Children Through Sport: Examining the Disconnect Between Program Vision and Implementation

in Journal of Physical Activity and Health
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The purpose of this study was to provide recommendations to an organization trying to effectively implement nontraditional sport programming to reach a broader range of children and engage them in physical activity.


This consultation-based qualitative study used data collected from 7 after-school sport program sites. Data were collected through participant observation and semistructured interviews with program instructors. The data were analyzed in 2 steps. First, descriptive coding was used to group observations and responses from each question, then pattern coding was used to find emerging themes. Researchers then compared both within and across program sites.


Researchers found that enjoyment, ability, and language influenced interactions; age-appropriateness, engagement, and curriculum design impacted curriculum; and instructor roles and ongoing mentoring impacted effectiveness of training/support. A fundamental disconnect was evident between the program vision and the instructors’ interpretation (and therefore, implementation) of the vision.


Recommendations offered for practice include continued focus on curriculum design that can engage children at each level of development (grades K–5) and increased training and field support for instructors to ensure intended implementation of the programming.

Newland is with the School of International Business, Victoria University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Dixon is with the Dept of Kinesiology and Health, University of Texas at Austin. Green is with the University of Illinois, Urbana–Champagin.

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