18 SES 09, Examining Environments in Physical Education and Youth Sport
Sports contexts have a fundamental role in promoting physical, mental, and social and wellness skills throughout the life cycle. As societal microsystems, they generate a dynamics of involvement in a significant number of civil society organizations, emerging as the most typical associational context for young people and adults in many European countries, Portugal included.
Being constituted as favorable domain to the physical development and to the improvement of functional capacity and well-being, sports also contributes to the dissemination of values and personality construction . Underlining the importance of sport in physical and psychosocial development promoting levels of responsibility and enhancing decision-making there are studies that assume different approaches: a more individual approach focus on development of skills , such as collaboration and self-efficacy, leadership, and teamwork, namely assuming a conception of positive development of young people by sport ; a more pedagogical approach, concerning the mastery and practices of the coaches and teachers of Physical Education; and one more collective or centered in a social conception focus on the development of programs directed to specific communities, usually at risk populations design to develop the sense of belonging, and engagement  and preventing risk behaviors related to school absence, sexuality and addiction .
Assuming that the practice of citizenship implies meaningful involvement of pupils in an owned and cooperative space [6, 13], they must be considered as co-constructors of knowledge, identity and culture, they have agency, and they have a voice and should be taken into account in a democratic dialogue and decision making . With different forms of political participation it is recognized that young people have social competence, as potential partners of adults, in the social reconstruction of public spaces [14, 1].
Recognizing young people as political actors in their own right and the sport contexts as spaces of citizenship and democratic spaces, we will be able to promote in the new generations skills for a more active participation in civil society . The exercise of citizenship presupposes the recognition by each citizen of the fundamental importance of their opinion and their participation in decision-making. It also presupposes a belief that a participatory democracy revitalizes human rights and promotes individual development, triggering an increase, which is significant, of "popular participation in political processes" .
The need to appeal to a participatory citizenship experience in different contexts of proximity has been subject of different studies that reinforce the added value of the institutional ethos to ensure the development of critical and making decision abilities of young people and the continuity of their participation in the life of societies [3; 11].
Sport, despite being associated with an international social phenomenon that assumes a fundamental dimension in citizens' lives and in the socio-financial realities of each country has been neglected. Considering that research suggests a strong relationship between educational community goals, political involvement and the exercise of democratic citizenship [8; 9], it is pursued to verify how dynamics of sports contexts predispose to an experience of citizenship, democracy and participation and, on the other hand, if the development of these competences can be related to levels of civic and political participation in the community. Keeping this in mind this study considers as objectives of research:
- Understand perceptions that young athletes have about civic and political participation and the social influence that sport have in society;
- Reflect about young athletes’ participation in sport Contexts (are they call to participate, are they listened and feel that they have influence in sports contexts’ life) through their lived/related experiences;
- Reflect how Sports Contexts' promotes personal and social competences, but also civic and political competences and participation.
This study makes use of a qualitative methodology in data collection and analysis. It presents a methodological proposal that favors a "constructive and collective process in the production of knowledge"  reflecting the meanings attributed by the athletes in the analysis of a thematic they felt as fundamental: the importance of sport in their daily life and in society. Young athletes, are recognized as social actors and subjects of rights, so they have agency and ability to influence collective life and to involve themselves in the (re) signification of society assuming a role as active citizens . In this qualitative framework, FGD reinforces the exploration of information generated from the interaction between group members [15; 16], in a process of bidirectional influence generated in the dynamics of the group itself, where investigators and research subjects share powers and responsibility for collaborative research . Still the methodological option by the Focus Groups (FGD) presented a function of accessing to the meanings attributed by the young athletes in the proposed discussion, introducing the group variable with the least intervention of the moderator  and in their natural context (sportive context). Pursuing defined objectives of this study FGD were organized in three main topics: 1. the sportive context, exploring sport’ environment and philosophy, experiences and motivations associated with sport and perceptions about sport and social influence; 2. athletes’ experiences of individual or collective participation – considering participation and involvement of young people in sportive contexts and in society. In this study were made 57 FGD with 570 athletes, all male, basketball players, in 19 clubs from the north of Portugal. In each club were considered three groups according to age and level of formation and competition (U12, U14 and U16). In these groups athletes have between 8 and 15 years old. It wasn´t possible to consider gender balance because only three clubs have female players in these three stages, so these data wasn’t consider in this study. Once completed, all FGD were transcribed and analyzed using NVIVO 11 software. In the definition of the categories it was used a deductive and inductive analysis putting together previous research and literature in the definition of pre-defined categories and highlighting the richness of the athletes' own discourse in the definition of emerging categories.
Athletes have a critical representation of societies, revealing to be aware of different concepts of citizenship and its operationalization: they show attitudes and concerns about human condition and can easily highlight the need for social organization; they have internalized the concept of democracy and are able to make relations between sports and societal values; they emphasize the importance of its sports contexts/teams in their involvement and development of social and personal skills that they recognize to be fundamental to a good citizenship and well organized society; although they recognize the potentialities that as athletes manifest and their critical awareness to formal organization of clubs and sport contexts, their participation in this context is very few and characterized by a formal, passive and ritualized being. When athletes were challenged to get a political position and try to point some topics that they think to be important to change or to implement in national political organization concerned to sports: they refer to democracy, equality and social justice in the development and application of financial investment in sport; they consider that it´s important to encourage participation through sports and believe that they promote moments of sports valorization that are related to social and political issues; they consider that schools/education contexts have an important role in making families and children aware about the importance of sports as a way to promote health – and this is important to citizenship education and to form citizens; they regard sports contexts as “model contexts”; they assume that their practices and attitudes are sources of reference for young people as citizens. Results indicate the need for a partnership between athletes and adults in a mode of participation, in which the voices of Youngers are heard in a reciprocal manner, an exploratory and dialogical work in all levels.
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