Discussion, Practical Implications and Future Directions
Daniel Gould, Michigan State University, USA
Theme: Youth sport
Program ID: SYM-15
Presentation: October 4, 2013 8:15 am - 9:30 am
Participation in this intensive camp significantly enhanced self-reports of psychological development, especially in the areas of hope, coping, coachability, achievement motivation and confidence, goal setting and mental preparation. Qualitative data triangulated these findings, but also showed how the camp influenced individual youth in different ways. These results are consistent with recent work of Larson and Brown (2007) and Larson et al. (2011), who showed that youth in non-sport performance settings (i.e., theater group), learn to better understand and regulate emotions from experiencing “hot” emotional episodes and then drawing from the culture around them. These studies have also showed that environments that provide structure, create expectations, and hold participants accountable help youth to learn to regulate emotions. The findings of this study also support many of the key criteria needed to enhance positive youth development, as identified by the National Research Council and Institute for Medicine (2002). As a youth development experience, what makes this camp unique is that many of the camp’s techniques derived from the camp director’s experiences as an Army Ranger. Hence, as the name of this symposium suggests, the camp intervention was an effective combination of demanding physical training (in some ways, similar to special forces training) and psychological skills training (e.g., reflecting on experiences through nightly journaling, relaxation/imagery training, cognitive restructuring). Therefore, youth development researchers might consider broadening current approaches to studying youth development by increased examination of how youth learn from demanding and challenging environments. While the results of this study are provocative, caution is needed when interpreting them. The limitations of the study must be recognized: it included no control group data, and no interviews with participants who discontinued the camp. In addition, it employed a design that did not permit causal determinations. That being said, the findings present a number of practical implications.