Advancing Children’s Rights in Sport: Coaching, Childhood Agency and the Participatory Agenda

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    The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child makes clear that children have rights to protection from violence and abuse and the right to be heard. There have been many developments in sports organisations’ approaches to protecting children from violence and abuse in recent years. The same cannot be said of advancing children’s right to a ‘voice’ – to have a say and be heard in matters that affect them. In this theoretical paper, I argue this is due to how children are constructed in and beyond sport, which is influenced by developmentalist conceptualisations of childhood. Applying ideas from the ‘new’ sociology of childhood to a sporting context for the first time, I argue these dominant understandings lead to constructions of children as vulnerable and incompetent, which inadvertently foment protectionism and preclude adults from seeing children as rights bearers, preventing them from actualising their right to participate. To address this, a participatory model applied outside of sport but yet to be used in sport – Hart’s ladder of participation – is suggested as a way coaches and other sport stakeholders can more effectively involve children in sport and help them fully realise their legal rights.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalSports Coaching Review
    Early online date4 Jan 2022
    Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Jan 2022


    • Children’s rights in sport
    • developmentalism
    • athlete ‘voice’
    • violence and abuse in sport
    • youth coaching
    • sociology of childhood
    • sociology of sports

    Research Centres

    • Centre for Child Protection and Safeguarding in Sport


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