The Educative Role of Sport for Socially Disengaged Young Black Men in London
Hatchett, Lena Marie
Young Black men in urban environments are at risk of marginalisation and social alienation from mainstream society; they are statistically more likely to have been excluded from school, to be involved in crime and be living in poverty (Cook & Hudson, 1993; Noguera, 2003; Regan & Hoeksma, 2010). Research suggests that in the chaotic swirl of poor housing conditions, family breakdown and exposure to substance abuse, mainstream education is failing to reach this demographic sufficiently, contributing to a situation where gun and knife crime homicides are significantly higher amongst this particular group (Cosn, 2001; Home Affairs Committee, 2007; Scott, 2007). The central objective of this study was to investigate the experiences of both youth and educators who actively engage in sports programmes to see if sport could be used as an alternative mode of inclusion for socially disengaged young Black men. This study focused on three sport-based intervention programmes, and attempted to develop a theoretically informed understanding of how and why disengagement occurs amongst young Black men, alongside analysing the mechanisms that enable sport-based intervention programmes to achieve success. A purposive sampling approach was used to identify appropriate organisations and suitable participants in London. A mixed methods technique was adopted and incorporated a combination of questionnaires (n=17); semi-structured interviews (n=12) and focus group discussions (n=5 per group, 3 groups). Six major themes emerged from the focus group discussions and interviews: (a) practical life issues; (b) educational concerns; (c) social bonding; (d) personal development; (e) attitudinal change, and (f) role of sport. Quantitative analysis from the questionnaire found that when asked about particular initiatives for youth, 96% of educators and leaders, which consisted of sports coaches, sport volunteers, youth mentors and programme directors, wanted to see more educational programmes that focused on changing prejudice and discrimination within the community. Questionnaire results also highlighted a reduction in deviant behaviour patterns during and post programme involvement, with educators and leaders indicating that narcotic drug usage amongst participants was down 39%. Overall, this study suggests that sport can be used to reduce labelling, empower at-risk and disengaged youth, improve social skills and create new, positive leadership opportunities and constructive group identity pathways. The present study also contributes to future sport-based intervention research and practices. It highlights that sports programmes do have the potential to provide an alternative means of education for socially disengaged young Black men in London. More specifically, the findings from this study provide preliminary research into the use of sport programmes in reducing anti-social behaviour patterns within programme contexts by explaining when and how sport can be utilised as a valuable, powerful vehicle for the prevention of crime and delinquency.