Recreational Sports Contributes to Student Development
Reviewing my About page you see that I spent 10 years managing recreational sports programs for college-aged students followed by 10 years studying the relationship between academic and co-curricular experiences. The interest in how these experiences could facilitate student development and achievement are still important to me. A few months ago I collaborated with a local university recreational sports department. My primary function was to provide an introduction for a staff development program focusing on student development and meeting mission. The institution mission is in direct alignment with the purpose of my blog. It says in part, “to enrich the educational experience by providing opportunities that focus on the development of lifelong wellness skills for students.”
To create the presentation the staff and I discussed importance of bridging the department mission to the university mission. Linking department mission statement and the organization mission promotes unity of vision.
A department’s mission statement extends to the campus community a promise of intent to serve. While a mission statement can be the inspirational foundation of an organization, it must also be the framework for program planning and assessment.
Flow from intent of the organization (mission) to the program goals (desired outcomes) guides evaluation of the goals (actual outcomes). In other words, how well does the department contribute to the organization meeting mission.
Applying the concepts of a mission statement into practice will afford the ability to answer the “so what” question.
We discussed and worked through an exercise to operationalize the mission statements (institution and department). Transforming the mission statement from an abstract concept to a specific measurable vision contributes to progam planning.
The purpose of the exercise was to name key elements of each and pinpoint overlap. Below is a partial example of such an outcome of the exercise (used in another setting).
The second part of the staff development was to select a theoretical foundation for their work. My role was to supply an example of using theory to guide practice. I chose Arthur Chickering’s (1969, 1993) student development theory. He bases his model on the precept of experiential learning. This theory is a perfect fit as an example for a recreational sports department. As conceptualized by Chickering, experiential learning is the learning that occurs in a person as the result of changes in judgments, feelings, knowledge or skills. Chickering hypothesizes that the student experiences have the potential to have a substantial impact on overall development. Chickering’s model includes 7 evolving factors (tasks) of student development, which he refers to as vectors. Vector quantifies both direction (i.e., improve, status quo, worsen) and magnitude (i.e., how much of a change).
Below are some examples (non-inclusive list) of how recreational sports programming contributes to student development (applying Chickering’s vectors)
**Sports participation enhance self image
**Classification systems used in programming contributes to building competence
**Social interaction and challenge of participation
**Positions of responsibility provide opportunities to build competence **Learning rules, how to work together as a team, strategy of play and competition
**Participation helps express aggression (cathartic effect)
**Sport environment allows an opportunity to try new ways of expressing emotions
**Co-recreational opportunities enhance social interactions
**Need to adhere to rules and regulations
**Participation in sports helps in character development, self sufficiency, and self support
**Sports teams help in disengagement from parents (transition to college) **Enhances the ability to use each other’s strengths to make progress as teams make decisions and solve problems
**Cooperation among team members and opponents is necessary to have a successful play experience
**Tolerance may develop by creating a plane of equality on the playing field **Classification of sports and variety of program offerings aid in diversity of personal interactions
**Sports environment helps to eliminate social and racial barriers
**Self-concept varies directly with one’s body concept and sports participation enhances this
**Helps develop ability to handle/respond to competitive pressure
**Participation may enhance goal directed behavior
**Setting of the team or performance goals and persistence in accomplishing these goals
**Individual and dual sports aid in lifestyle development
**Participation enhances loyalty and altruism
**Sport environment allows one to observe, analyze, and evaluate others value structures
**Sport environment develops its own behavior structures, norms, and statuses
A recreational sports department should have, above all, a fixed, articulate philosophy concerning the nature, intent and reason behind the programs. Recreation professionals must transition from intent and apply theory to practice in order to prove educational accountability. Student development theory, such as Chickering, serves as a core construct around which we identify goals, programs developed, and interventions evaluated.
If a profession is to know where it is going, what it is striving for, what it hopes to accomplish, and how it might proceed in its work, it should have goals and outcomes clearly defined.
If human development is indeed a lifelong process of acquiring, analyzing, and synthesizing information, ideas, and knowledge then recreational sports professionals can feel good about the impact of their programs on that part of the process which occurs during a student’s college career.
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I view the sports environment as a mini-society or participatory model of life. I feel that the developmental opportunities in the larger world and those in the sports environment are similar. Future blogs will expand on these comments…my recent work has stimulated the idea to share my beliefs with you.
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