Thursday, December 2, 2010

Character Development in Youth

            Many school aged children have parents who are not around when they get out of school because they are still at work, which in some cases can lead to violent behavior and aggression.  Many of these kids are using their aggression in a negative way.  “Aggression is any form of behavior directed toward the goal of harming or injuring another living being” (Gill and Williams, p. 226).  Therefore, a plan has been put in place to develop an after school program for upper elementary and middle school children so they will have something to do until their parents get home from work.  The program will be centered on physical activity and character development; primarily the development of good sportsmanship.  To start, we need to hire personnel who can motivate the children and at the same time teach them the character traits that go along with good sportsmanship.  We want these kids to learn how to follow rules, have respect for others around them, and have self-control when things don’t go their way.  We want to create a program where everyone has the right to participate no matter what their personal situation is. 
            Physical educators have traditionally included the development of sportsmanship as one of the major values of participation in sport for athletes of all ages and abilities (Weiss and Bredemeier, 1986). Sport programs for young people, in particular, mention sportsmanship as an intricate part of participation.  One of the most notable programs in the development of teaching strategies that focus on moral development has been Fair Play for Kids, a teacher resource manual developed by the Commission for Fair Play in Canada. The manual includes a series of interdisciplinary educational activities for children in fourth through sixth grades. These activities are designed to focus on the development of attitudes and behaviors that exemplify the ideals of fair play identified by the Commission. The primary principals are (a) respect for the rules, (b) respect for officials and their decisions, (c) respect for the opponent, (d) providing all individuals with an equal chance to participate, and (e) maintaining self-control at all times (Gibbons et. al., 1995).  We plan on implementing these guidelines in our afterschool program in order to teach the students about positive character development.  Gill and Williams (2008) state that sport and physical activity can have a positive impact on moral growth; therefore we teach most of our character development through in this manner.
            To break down the principals the first thing we need to address is respect for the rules.  This sometimes can be a daunting task, but if we treat every child the same and have the same expectations for everyone the point should come across rather quickly.  Respect for officials and their decisions can be a little tougher to learn.  This is true at any age level, so teaching its importance while the children are in the beginning stages of sports should help them in the development of respect for authority both in and outside the realm of sports.  Officials are something that we have no control over, so if we teach the kids to worry about the things that they do have control over (control the controllables), this should help them focus more on what they are doing rather than what the officials are doing.  Respect for ones opponent is similar to respecting the officials.  However, the opponents have the same goals, so our focus will again be to control the controllables and learn to do the best they can and accept the things that happen to or around them.  Providing all individuals an equal chance to participate should be one of the easier principals to enforce.  Developing true care for others falls into this principal.  In Hellison’s levels of cumulative progression, participants are motivated to extend their sense of responsibility beyond themselves by cooperating, giving support, showing concern, and helping others (Gill and Williams, 2008).  The final principal to incorporate into this program is maintaining self-control at all times.  This may be the toughest one to teach and enforce.  But once we can enforce respect for authority and opponents, as well as teammates and peers, the students will understand that things are not always going to go their way. 
            Implementation of a specially designed educational program can effect changes in several facets of moral development.  The purpose of this program is to get kids off the streets and give them something to do after school other than get into trouble.  Teaching character development through physical activity and sportsmanship can be achieved if the program is consistent in nature.  Throughout the entire program, the activities will be fun and enjoyable so the students are excited to be a part of the program.  Incorporating some of these principals while in the daily classroom could also help promote the program to other students to join the afterschool program.  The overall outcome should be less violent behavior from these kids, more respect for people around them, and hopefully happier kids, parents, and teachers in the community.


Gibbons, S., Ebbeck, V., & Weiss, M. (1995). 'Fair play for kids': Effects on the moral development of children in physical education. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 66(3), 247.

Gill, D.L., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise (3rd Ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Weiss, M. R., & Bredemeier, B.J. (1986). Moral development. In V. Seefeldt (Ed.), Physical activity and well-being (pp. 373-390). Reston, VA: AAHPERD.