28/9-2021Street sports as a way to include at-risk youth

The ASPHALT program
Street sports can have an effect on inequality in physical and mental health and social inequality for at-risk children and young people. The research program ASFALT shows that if sports activities are organized informally, are free, take place close to the homes of the children and youth and do not have requirements for facilities, they can include more at-risk children. The program also shows that involving youth peer leadership is a way of increasing youth’s physical activity and that gaining local support is key to ensure Playmakers’ motivation.

In ASPHALT, GAME cooperates with Steno Diabetes Center (SDCC) and University of Southern Denmark (SDU) to create new knowledge on how to attract and maintain more at-risk youth in positive sports communities. This knowledge will support social change for at-risk youth, which includes for them to gain life skills like friendships, a higher level of physical activity, empowerment and well-being. The project will support the resilience of the youth and their engagement in society.

Social inequality is apparent
Research shows that social inequity is apparent in both mental, social and physical health among people at risk on a global scale. Therefore, health programs worldwide are increasingly organizing prevention programs in at-risk communities.
Since 2018, GAME has in collaboration with SDCC and funded by the Novo Nordisk Foundation contributed to reducing social inequity in health by promoting physical activity and participation in positive sports communities among at-risk youth in Denmark.

Research on health promotion interventions
According to research conducted in ASPHALT, health promotion interventions have greater impact if implemented early in life, and moreover, leisure-time physical activities have a large impact on social, mental and physical health. It is shown that local and informal activities situated in an everyday setting can achieve a long-term engagement in physical activity among at-risk youth. Additionally, the program shows that interventions should adapt to the local context by involving the participants and the local community to create impact.

Youth-led street sports approach reduces inequality
The ASPHALT program research found that involving youth peer leadership is a way of increasing youth’s physical activity. Additionally, when making free and available sports-based activities which require few facilities and are tailored to children and youth, the outcomes are increasing access to physical activity, increasing long-term participation in physical activity, and thus, health and well-being. Overall, this will reduce inequity in social, mental and physical health.

Read the research-based knowledge in detail here:
A Scoping Review of Peer-Led Physical Activity Interventions Involving Young People: Theoretical Approaches, Intervention Rationales, and Effects

Sports-based recreation as a means to address social inequity in health: why, when, where, who, what, and how
More research to be published during 2021.

Co-creation creates inclusion of at-risk girls in sports
With the goal of creating inclusion of at-risk children and youth in sports communities, GAME and SDCC facilitated an innovative co-creating design process involving more than 500 kids, youth, parents, municipal actors and local actors with relation to at-risk communities in Denmark. The design process provided insights into how to reach at-risk youth with a special focus on girls with a low level of participation in sports.

Local communities and female role models are important to create impact
One of the most important conclusions is that to ensure the Playmaker’s motivation, local support is needed. Thus, future interventions should be community-based, whereof closer ties are created between GAME’s activities and the local community including parents.

Another conclusion of the project is that female role models and a specially organised multi sports concept for girls could attract more girls to sports activities. Additionally, when it comes to girls’ participation, the project found that it is important to reach out to parents and gain their trust.

Observations showed that if the Playmakers’ engagement was fluctuating, it seemed to have a consequence on number of participating children and retention over time. Most of the Playmakers have grown up in an at-risk community, and this is motivating the children, because they can identify with the older role models. For this reason, it is important that the Playmakers engagement is steady.

Increasing the reach
Moving forward, GAME is implementing the results in an intervention called GAME Community, which SDCC and SDU will evaluate. The foundation of GAME Community is the elements highlighted in ASPHALT as key to increase GAME’s ability to reach and maintain even more youth in GAME’s Playmaker Program:

The project is combining research and practical competences from the different project parties to reach out to youth that are less likely to attend traditional physical activity than their peers, e. g. girls.