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Youth Sport Volunteering: developing social capital

posted on 24.03.2017, 12:43 by Steven BradburySteven Bradbury
Since 1997 the UK has energetically deployed sport in pursuit of diverse social policy agendas including enhancing health, engaging disaffected youth, countering anti-social behaviour and contributing to community well-being. The extent to which the intended social outcomes are definable, realistic and measurable has however been queried, as has the causal role that sport can play in achieving them. This chapter will address aspects of this debate through a focus on the capacity of youth sport volunteering to develop social capital. Youth sports volunteering ‘ticks the boxes’ of a number of topical UK policy agendas, providing a form of social participation that potentially engages young people in community-oriented activities, empowers them as resourceful individuals and contributes to the development of citizenship and social capital. These concepts are however much disputed and the debate surrounding the associated policy agendas is intense. Here we will analyse the extent to which young people’s experiences of volunteering in sport may match or fall short of these policy expectations, drawing on qualitative data from the on-going evaluation of the national ‘Step into Sport’ youth volunteer initiative. The chapter will show that volunteering elicits varied responses from young people, but in a minority of cases offers a route for positive achievement for those who are otherwise particularly disaffected. The chapter will suggest that there is sufficiently robust evidence to claim that sports volunteering can contribute to the development of social capital, but only in some circumstances and only for some young people.



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

Published in

Sport, Leisure, Culture and Social Capital:Discourse and Practice


51 - 67 (16)


BRADBURY, S., 2009. Youth Sport Volunteering: developing social capital. Collins, M., Holmes, K., Slater, A. (eds). Sport, Leisure, Culture and Social Capital: Discourse and Practice. Eastbourne, UK: Leisure Studies Association, pp.51-67


Leisure Studies Association (© Steven Bradbury)


AM (Accepted Manuscript)

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This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at:

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This is a book chapter.



Book series

LSA Publication;100