• Advancing a Youth-Centered Pedagogy that Fosters Physical Literacy by Working with Youth and YMCA Recreation Providers

      Petersen, Jennie; Applied Health Sciences Program
      Participation in sport and physical activity declines in children at approximately 11-14 years of age. Efforts to support long-term participation in physical activity have focused on the promotion of physical literacy, which offers a holistic view of the factors affecting youth participation. Limited research has explored pedagogical approaches that can support youth physical literacy and engagement in recreational sport and physical activity contexts. This dissertation investigates pedagogical approaches aimed at supporting youth physical literacy in a YMCA recreation context using action research. An important objective was to support change in YMCA organizational pedagogical practices. Practical implications for the implementation of physical literacy are discussed throughout. Interviews with 10 youth and eight coaches involved in YMCA recreational sport and physical activity programs were conducted in the first study of this dissertation. Factors that supported youth engagement included sense of enjoyment, learning and accomplishment, and comfort with peers in the program. Youth described feeling disengaged when they felt a low sense of autonomy, excluded, or if there was potential for embarrassment. Gender stereotypes were identified as a contributing factor leading to lower levels of participation and engagement in girls. Coaches who had previously taken physical literacy related training perceived improvements in their instructional ability to engage youth. In the second study, 31 youth participated in a series of focus group meetings exploring what approaches to physical literacy resonate amongst youth. During a wrap-up meeting with YMCA stakeholders, youth participants shared their ideas and courses of action. Findings demonstrated that the presence of a caring adult, interacting with peers of a similar age, opportunities to have input and co-create their programs, games-based approaches, and the flexibility of their program structures were important factors for enhancing youth involvement in sport and physical activity. In the last study, a youth-informed recreation instructors training was designed, developed, and co-created with six YMCA stakeholders over the course of seven focus group meetings. A key outcome was the development of a recreation instructor training, called Working ‘with’ Youth in Sport and Physical Activity. Findings provide insight on the challenges that recreation organizations face with implementing physical literacy concepts.