Socially vulnerable young people in Flemish sports clubs: Investigating youth experiences

Reinhard Haudenhuyse, Zeno Nols, Marc Theeboom, Filip Coussée

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Sport appears to present a powerful tool for engaging socially vulnerable youth in an organised context, which offers an opportunity to work with them. However, we have little understanding regarding participation of socially vulnerable young people in the 'traditional' sport sector (i.e. sports clubs). Nor do we have sufficient insights into how vulnerable young people experience their participation in sports clubs and how they best feel supported. In order to address this question, we interviewed 50 young people and 13 key witnesses (mostly coaches, but also board members and club coordinators) within 15 Flemish (northern Dutch-speaking region of Belgium) traditional sport settings, using semi-structured interviews. Throughout the interviews we noticed that the selected sports clubs offered young people an environment where they could find support, meaning, appreciation, security and caring. The coach played a key role but was not the only factor, since his/her guidance was influenced and steered by the broader organisational and cultural context of the club. From the perspectives and experiences of interviewed youngsters we have identified some aspects that are related to the organisational context, such as first impressions/feelings when joining the sports club, differences between other sports clubs, valued experiences, motives for (non-)participation and dropout. Interviewed young people were, however, rather reserved, perhaps realistic, about popular beliefs in the power of sport to change things for the better.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-198
JournalEuropean Physical Education Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2014


  • soccially vulnerable young people
  • experiences
  • Flemish
  • sports clubs


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