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How skills learnt from sport can help homeless young people

12 December 2016

Mental skills training developed in sport can help homeless young people engage with education, training and work opportunities.

That is the conclusion of research being presented today by Dr Sam Cooley and Dr Jennifer Cumming from the University of Birmingham. They will be presenting at our Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology's annual conference in Cardiff .

Dr Cooley studied 95 homeless young people who had followed the MST4Life™ (‘Mental Skills Training for Life’) programme. This consists of 10 weekly community-based sessions working on existing and new mental skills and qualities.

These sessions are followed by a four-day residential outdoor education visit to the Lake District, where these attributes are further developed in a novel environment. In total, more than 250 homeless young people have followed this course.

Dr Cooley asked his sample of 95 young people to identify skills and qualities that they considered to be important in life. Each came up with an average of 11, including self-confidence, motivation and teamwork.

The young people were asked to rate themselves on the skills and qualities they had identified before and after completing the MST4Life™ Training. The results showed they their ratings had improved significantly after the training.

This improvement correlated with how well the young people had engaged with the community-based sessions, as judged by the facilitator, but not with how many sessions they had attended.

Dr Cooley says:

“Improving strengths like confidence, motivation and teamwork is a vital component of helping disadvantaged young people. Our findings here suggest that techniques borrowed from sport are highly effective in this population.”

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