Sport participation effects on adolescent play networks at summer care programs


Introduction: Adolescent physical activity (PA) is associated with many health benefits; yet, many adolescents are less active during summer. Summer care programs (e.g., Boys & Girls Clubs) can promote adolescent PA while providing opportunities for friendships. Additionally, team sport participation is a positive influence on PA levels and social development. Adolescents are greatly impacted by their social environment, which can be examined by using social network analysis. The purpose of this study was to examine the role of team sport participation on adolescent friendships at a summer care program.

Methods: Adolescents at a summer care program completed researcher-administered surveys at the start (T1) and end (T2) of summer. Adolescents self-reported PA, team sport participation, and names of up to five peers whom they hung around with most while at the program. Linear network autocorrelation models (LNAM) were used to determine if adolescent team sport participation was significantly associated with that of those they hung around with at the program.

Results: Adolescents at T1 (n=100; µ age=9.9 years; SD=1.3; 47% male; 62% Black) and T2 (n=77; µ age=9.8 years; SD=1.5; 51% male; 60% Black) reported being active 2-3 hours per week on average. More than a quarter of adolescents at T1 (29%,n=29) and 27% (n=21) at T2 reported team sport participation. LNAM results showed team sport participation was significantly clustered in T1 (β=0.09,p=.003), but not in T2 (β=0.03,p=.49). Self-reported PA was significantly associated with team sport participation at T1 (β=0.22,p=.003), not T2 (β=0.1,p=.12).

Conclusions: While adolescents may come to the program with friends based on team sport participation, the program allowed adolescents, regardless of participation, to become friends. These results suggest summer care programs provide opportunities for adolescents to be active and facilitate friendships regardless of team sport participation. This may be important as communities struggle maintaining organized team sport funding.

Play Coalition Conference 2020
Clemson, South Carolina