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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review


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
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 9 Jul 2021


  • 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 & Safeguarding in Sport


Dive into the research topics of 'Advancing Children’s Rights in Sport: Coaching, Childhood Agency and the Participatory Agenda'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this