‘At-Risk’ youth sport programmes: Another way of regulating boys?

Rachael Hutchesson, Rylee A. Dionigi, Kristina Gottschall

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Community youth sport programmes often target boys who are considered ‘at-risk’ of failing at school or not transitioning to an ‘ideal’ adulthood, with the assumption that sport will ‘save them from social alienation’. In this chapter, we extend literature that examines sport programmes as a form of governmentality. We show how on the one hand such programmes reinforce the need for self-regulation among youth, and on the other hand produce an attraction to certain aspects of being a young person ‘at-risk’ (where it appears the more ‘at-risk’ you are the more likely you are to become a ‘famous’ sportsperson). We draw on ethnographic data collected from seven 13-15-year-old boys (including two Indigenous Australian and two Maori) involved in a regional New South Wales Police-run community-based Youth ‘At-Risk’ Programme. This programme aimed to improve relationships between local police and young people who had previous involvement in minor criminal activity. In this context, sport, rather than educational success, is positioned as a ‘way out’ of social marginalisation for young males, especially Indigenous boys, where the overrepresentation of Indigenous men in popular sports, such as rugby league, can establish desirable future selves. In other words, the very programmes that are designed to counter ‘risk’ through sport can work to maintain, create or celebrate risk, making participants feel even more alienated and disengaged from school and/or the workforce when they step outside of the sport programme and return to these ‘normalising’ contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSport and physical activity across the lifespan
Subtitle of host publicationCritical perspectives
EditorsRylee A Dionigi, Michael Gard
Place of PublicationBasingstoke, UK
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781137485625
ISBN (Print)9781137485618
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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