In order to reduce after-school violence, I have been appointed to put together a physical activity program that will give the students something to do after school until their parents get off work. Not only will the program keep the teens occupied to reduce violence, it will aim to develop character to prevent violence in all social situations.
After school programs and sports can benefit students in a variety of ways. Fraser-Thomas, Cote, and Deakin (2005) state that sports benefit youth in four main ways: physical development, psychological and emotional development, social development, and intellectual development. As these alone are beneficial and could reduce violence, according to Gill and Williams (2008) the higher the moral reasoning is in an individual, the less likely they are to be aggressive. Based on this information, the after school program may reduce violence because it gives the children something to do after school, but outside of that violence may still exist. If a reduction in violence is desired in all social situations, it is vital for me to implement a program that teaches moral reasoning to the teens.
According to instinct theory and initial drive theories, aggression is basically inevitable and violence is a way of reducing frustration. Since frustration does not always result in violence, many people look towards social learning theories to help explain why aggression exists. Social learning theories argue that all behaviors are learned through observations and the likelihood of the behavior occurring again is based on whether or not the behavior was reinforced. If this is true, it will be vital to teach the teens proper ways of dealing with their frustrations. Many people believe that contact sports are ways to blow off steam and relieve their anger, thus making people less likely to exhibit aggressive behavior. Research shows the opposite in that observation and participation in contact sports actually increases the probability of aggressive behavior (Gill and Williams, 2008). This makes sport the ideal environment for teaching youth how to deal with frustration and anger, along with other important life skills.
One problem I see with the after school program is that many of the at-risk children may not show any interest to staying after school to participate. If I create a program with no input from the teens themselves there is a good chance they may have no desire to show up. However, if I work with the teens from the very beginning and implement their ideas for activities and events I think they will show much more interest and enthusiasm towards the program. As cited in Gill and Williams (2008), Hellison (1995) created a “personal-social responsibility model” that stresses the importance of integrating the teaching of life skills in with the physical activity. This is something I will also implement in my program, and I will make it clear to the students from the very beginning that the purpose of the program is to not only have fun, but to learn ways to manage frustrations and deal with anger. According to Gill and Williams (2008), research on programs like this are promising as participants “demonstrated greater respect and feelings for others… self-control, effort, self-esteem and other positive social and personal characteristics outside of the physical activity setting are possible” (p. 238).
Teaching life skills is something that many successful coaches already do on a day to day basis. Gould et al. (2007) interviewed ten top coaches and identified various attributes they include in their coaching style. One of these included teaching positive skills and values in which players learn to ignore trash talking and taunting. Teaching the students values and appropriate behaviors when they arise in competition is one thing, but getting them to translate this into real life situation is another. I think it would be valuable to inform the children’s parents and teachers the goal of the program and encourage them to also teach the teens appropriate behaviors when possible.
In order to best reduce violence in this school, I will have the at-risk students assist me in designing the program in hopes that they will be more interested in participating in the program. Research shows that both after-school programs and sports help youth develop both physically and emotionally. The program that I will design will attempt to teach these teens to have greater moral reasoning and better emotional control, something they will learn through sports and exercise.
Gill, D. L., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise (3rd Ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Gould, D., Collins, K., Lauer, L., Chung, Y. (2007). Coaching life skills through football: A study of award winning high school coaches. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 19, 16-37.
Fraser-Thomas, J. L., Cote, J., & Deakin, J. (2005). Youth sport programs: An avenue to foster positive youth development. Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy, 10, 19-40.