Latest from the Journal of Sport for Development.
This study examines the contribution of a recreational adult women’s soccer league in rural Kenya to the development goals of enhancing social support, building community cohesion, and improving women’s emotional health. Using a sequential explanatory mixed methods approach, 702 members of a women’s health and literacy program, 229 of whom played in the program’s soccer league, completed surveys about various aspects of their lives. A five-item scale, perceived support from friends (PSF), queried women’s access to emotional and instrumental support; an exploratory factor analysis confirmed this scale’s suitability as a single measure. Bivariate and multivariate analyses examined attributes associated with PSF. Based on these findings, a purposive sample of 229 soccer league members participated in focus group discussions. Women’s perceptions were examined using thematic analysis. Quantitative findings indicated that soccer league members had greater odds of reporting high social support than their non-soccer-playing peers. Qualitative findings from the final analysis sample of 201 women suggested that soccer provided a social space in which team members formed a network of friendships within and across villages, providing emotional and instrumental support they associated with decreased stress and improved well-being. Given the positive effects of soccer on adult women’s lives, similar programs, particularly in rural settings with limited resources, should be considered as development strategies.