Football can inspire and educate young

Football can be used to educate and inspire young people in the UK. This is according to researchers from Northumberland University, who found a charitable foundation organised by Sunderland Football Club is helping to improve the lives of both children and their parents.

According to the study, the Foundation of Light is able to drive up aspirations among the young through football, while also making them feel more involved.

It was demonstrated that taking part in the programmes on offer brought many benefits for players, including improved confidence and self-esteem - developments that are advantageous for both physical and mental health.

In addition, many children said they enjoyed spending time with their parents on the courses, with a high number working harder in school as a consequence of their participation.

Dr Lynne McKenna, Principal Lecturer at the learning institute, said: "For most people the main motivating factor was the opportunity for parents and children to share time together as families."

Emeritus Professor Leo Hendry from the University of Aberdeen, a Fellow of the British Psychological Society, comments:

"It seems to me that what this study points to three elements that are important if we are interested in assisting young people to develop self-esteem and competence as they grow up.

"First, a belief that they are 'good at something'. In an exploration of enabling factors for adolescents in a deprived community setting, we wrote that a significant finding was the vital importance for young people of feeling they are ‘good at something’. The aptitudes and abilities mentioned varied widely, from music, dance and sports to academic skills. They did not necessarily aspire to Olympian heights, but just wished to develop competence in ‘something’, at least to a level that enhances confidence and self-belief. Most importantly, this seemed to trigger the creation of other resources and skills: It gives them a valued position vis-à-vis peers and adults, gained them the attention of possible mentors, goals to aspire to and convincing reasons to stay out of trouble. The same phenomenon apparently emerged in the reported project. Hence, contexts offering perceived competence are crucial.

"Second, the kind of parental involvement that ensured close, consistent interactions and (hopefully) positive feedback to the youngsters who were participating and allow parents to develop warm feelings about their children's abilities and  their relationship. So, shared experiences and emotions sponsor well-being within the family.

"Third, perceived reward and positive self regard create an upward spiral of generalised feelings of self-belief and confidence in ones' abilities. Football per se is not the magic elixir. Organised incorrectly it may create feelings of incompetence and poor self-esteem. It is the process and how it is structured in Vygotskian terms, that needs to be carefully designed. 

"So, I would conclude that similar findings could well be achieved with other peer valued activities such as pop music, provided the elements I've quoted are in operation. Maybe those who teach and tutor the young could find inspiration to consider introducing these qualities to the learning environments for which they are responsible!"