Last week we published our ‘In sport, we trust’ report, which provides compelling new evidence of the impact that community sport groups have on young people, community development and social cohesion.
We commissioned the research to help strengthen the evidence base for the impact of grassroots sport groups, particularly on social outcomes linked to community cohesion and integration. To do this we analysed five large national population datasets in the UK, which all track participation in sports groups and almost all of the outcomes relevant to the DCMS Sporting Future Strategy and Sport England Evaluation Framework, as well specific outcomes identified in the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, Scotland’s National Performance Framework and the Northern Ireland Outcomes Delivery Plan.
Sample sizes for these datasets ranged from 11,929 respondents [Understanding Society Youth] to 140,845 [Understanding Society], so it’s safe to say the results are extremely robust!
• A trust deficit is dividing the UK: young people from lower socio-economic groups are 23% less likely to trust their neighbours compared to those from higher socio-economic groups.
• But sport clubs can help bridge this trust deficit. Young people who are members of a local sports club have:
– Greater trust in other people
– A stronger sense of belonging to their community
– More close friends
– Greater levels of life satisfaction, happiness and health
– Greater desire to give back to their community through volunteering
• Those from disadvantaged backgrounds have the most to gain. When young people are part of a local sports club, those from lower socio-economic groups report a ten-time higher increase in trust and a three-time higher increase in life satisfaction compared to those from higher socio-economic groups.
The importance of controlling for socio-economic factors in sport
Throughout the descriptive statistics in this report, sports participation and sport group membership is more common for higher socio-economic groups in society. In other words, holding other things constant, on average, the more money you have, the more likely you are to be healthy, happy, trusting and interacting with a more diverse range of people and experiences.
Therefore, the crucial question for this research becomes: is it playing sport or membership of sports clubs that is improving health, wellbeing and trust, or is it the higher income, education or socio-economic background of sport players?
To isolate – as far as possible in the current data sets – the association between sports club membership and wellbeing for young people, we used a technique called ‘multivariate regression analysis’. This means that we’re not just reporting simple correlations between sport and trust, wellbeing or life satisfaction. By controlling for other factors, this work goes one step further in establishing the direct benefit for young people of being part of a sports club, and the impact this has on the ‘Community Development’ outcome sought by the DCMS 2016 Sporting Future strategy.
Why is trust is so important in evaluating the impact of grassroots sport?
Sport is now widely acknowledged as an important tool in tackling a wide range of social outcomes, from tackling knife crime, reducing reoffending to improving community cohesion. What underpins all of these is trust – trust in the community leaders, coaches, teachers and volunteers running the programmes, and trust in the people alongside you. Trust forms the foundation for every successful relationship, whether it’s at home, in the classroom, at work or on the field of play.
Take for example a local boxing club in an area troubled by high levels of anti-social behaviour. The club will play a significant role in taking young people off the streets and giving them something positive to do with their time. The boxing coach is this instance is likely to be a role model to the young people that come through the door and hold sway over their behaviour. It’s only because of young people’s trust and respect in their coach that they’ll take on board what they’re being told. Similarly, young people will only ever open up about their mental health and any problems they’re facing if they trust in the other person.
Trust is not achieved overnight. It takes times to grow. That’s why at Sported we believe grassroots community groups are so important in changing young lives and building the stronger, safer society we all want to see. Our members are there for their communities – come rain or shine – and provide a consistency and continuity of support that is so effective at engendering long-term change in young people’s attitudes, behaviours and aspirations.