Sport and the socio-emotional development of children
Pro Sport Development (PSD), in collaboration with Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) initiated an in-depth evaluation to better understand the impact of its Community Sports Program (CSP) on the socio-emotional development of children in Bhubaneswar, Odisha.
The overall intended impact of the CSP is to help children from marginalized backgrounds improve their socio-emotional health and well-being, and empower them to become confident and competent leaders within their own communities.
Over the past few years, the changes created by the program have been documented through articles, videos and case studies focusing on individual participants’ stories of change. In addition, analysis using secondary data pertaining to the CSP participants has been conducted. However, up until 2019, only basic quantitative data along with limited qualitative assessments were utilized to evaluate the impact of PSD’s sport for development initiative in Bhubaneswar.
For the evaluation of the CSP in 2020-21, a mixed-methods approach was utilized. An exploratory design procedure was used, wherein the quantitative data was collected first, followed by the collection of qualitative data.
Within the quantitative data, baseline and end-line surveys were used with both target and control groups to analyze the changes in their socio-emotional wellbeing. For qualitative data, interviews with select participants, along with their families and PSD trainers, were conducted.
A total of 267 children from two schools participated in the pre and post intervention surveys conducted for this evaluation. The target group (n=175) consisted of children registered for the CSP at the time of the baseline data collection, and were part of the online intervention implemented through the year. The control group (n=92) comprised of those children from the same schools who did not and have never previously participated in the CSP.
However, as seen in the data analysis of the surveys, the average responses and index scores of a few indicators of both the target respondents and control group have shown a positive change, whereas others have shown a negative change over the evaluation period. Interestingly, the change witnessed in the baseline and endline data for the average responses and index scores for all indicators for both the target respondents and control group follow very similar patterns.
Qualitative data was also collected as part of the evaluation, in the form of short interviews with participants, their families, and the PSD trainers, to understand more deeply how the CSP impacted participants during this time period. This data allowed PSD to understand the personal impact that the program has had on participants. In total, six participants and their families were interviewed for the qualitative evaluation.
The qualitative data collected focused on the individual-level changes that occurred in select participants due to their participation in the CSP. The narratives that emerged from the qualitative data concluded that many participants had greatly benefited from the CSP in a myriad of ways. This included increased physical activity levels, improved confidence, increased digital literacy, improved concentration and cognitive abilities, an increased understanding of gender issues, and an ability to stay connected with their peers while not being able to attend school.
The evaluation highlights two important things. First, a longitudinal study conducted over a longer period of time would be more helpful at capturing the impact of an intervention such as the CSP, especially utilizing quantitative tools. Recent developments in the S4D field have found that there is a clear demand for more data-driven and longitudinal research on the impact of sport for developmental goals. Such an evaluation would help determine the long-term impact of a sustained and deliberate sport and physical activity program on the holistic development of children and youth.
Secondly, this study explicates that quantitative data, by itself, is not sufficient to evaluate the merits of an intervention, and must be supplemented with rich, qualitative data, which helps us understand the real changes that are being made in the lives of the participants. As found through the qualitative data collected for this evaluation, the CSP has had a real impact on its participants, helping them cope during an especially difficult time, and this cannot be discounted due to a lack of supporting quantitative data. At the end of the day, it is the real changes being made in the participants’ lives which matter, which can be understood better from them telling their own stories.