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Sports-Based Interventions for Socially Vulnerable Youth: Towards Well-defined Interventions with Easy-to-Follow Outcomes?

In this paper, we critically examine the burgeoning scientific discourse about sports-based interventions for socially vulnerable or disadvantaged youth from a socio-pedagogical perspective. It is argued that the call for more well-defined sports-based social interventions with easier-to-follow outcomes may be at odds with the open-ended philosophy that is viewed as a fundamental principle when engaging with socially vulnerable youth in a leisure context (Smith, 2003), and could potentially undermine the effectiveness and value of such practices for young people. We examine the question if supporting young people in social vulnerable situations will be best served with well-defined sports-based interventions with easy-to-follow outcomes. We argue that if outcomes are to be formulated or analysed, such outcomes need to go beyond narrow conceptions of individual development, and need to be defined in consultation with young people. Adopting a socio-pedagogical perspective, we have proposed an alternative way to define (and evaluate) outcomes, in consultation with young people, in terms of biographical, institutional and political competences. Furthermore, it is argued that there is an acute need for re-socialising sports research regarding social interventions for socially vulnerable groups, and in particular youth.