The real benefits of sport involvement appear among children and youth who have experienced appropriate forms of leadership. For example, research shows that martial arts taught with a philosophy of respect, patience, responsibility and honor were related to decreased delinquency, when compared to martial arts taught with a focus on free sparring and self-defense.

Efforts should be concentrated towards leadership training, the processes of training both professionals and volunteers who are likely to lead such programmes. Coaches and physical educators have the potential to provide strong leadership if they fully activate this aspect of their work with children and young people.

Positive social interaction between peers also links strongly with sporting and educational outcomes and as such, peer educators and leaders also require quality training and support.

Attitudes towards school

There is growing interest among the relevant Sport & Development actors in the relationship between sport and attitudes towards school among children and young people. A number of studies show that once sports are introduced, pupil attendance increases. But the distinction between recreational and competitive youth sport and physical activity must be drawn to understand the extent to which sport acts as a magnet or a repellent to school.

Evidence among those at risk of being excluded from school shows that an increase in the availability of sports activities would make the prospect of attending school more appealing. In this sense, sports activities in schools act as a gateway (if presented in appropriate ways) to drawing children and young people towards attending school.

On the other hand, research has shown that excessive and intensive training for competitive youth sport can act as an obstacle to fulfilling educational and academic pursuits among young athletes who compete in higher-level sports competitions.

Cases in which adults (including sports coaches and even parents) push young athletes to abandon their studies to focus almost full-time on their sport pursuits are prevalent in competitive youth sports.