Exploring young peoples’ experiences within a sport and livelihood program


Unemployment rates among young people in Canada have consistently been double those of adults (Statistics Canada, 2016), currently ranging from 9-12% (Statistics Canada, 2023). Labour policies have drawn upon progressive youth development models to address this concern (Bancroft, 2017), with various initiatives emerging following the COVID-19 global pandemic. Sport and livelihood programming (SLP) uses sport programming to support career and economic development within under-resourced communities. The purpose of this study was to explore youths’ experiences within a SLP, with a secondary focus of exploring constructions of class, race, gender, poverty, (dis)ability and culture within programming. Seven participants (ages 19-25) enrolled in a fellowship program at a large sport for development centre engaged in semi-structured interviews. Drawing upon thematic analysis, four aggregate themes emerged from the data. Participants described program experiences as offering customized learning experiences and opportunities to develop corporate skills, despite some challenges related to program structure. Participants appreciated the SLP community, as they felt cared for, developing connections, while appreciating the prestige of their employer/organization. Nonetheless, participants expressed concerns about workplace culture and infrastructure, discussing issues related to race, whiteness, codeswitching, and equity, diversity, and inclusion. In considering the program’s contribution to their livelihoods, they expressed a desire for additional support in attaining full time employment, to in turn earn a living wage. Analyses suggest SLP may (re)produce some structural barriers of precarious working conditions. Future research is needed to explore programming from an interdisciplinary and/or transdisciplinary (Whitley et al, 2022) perspective.