Supporting the Transfer and Application of Life Skills Beyond SportJuly 24, 2019
This is the third and final blog in a series on positive youth development in sport. If this is your first visit to this series, considering taking a few minutes to read the other two posts: Tips on How to Deliver a Quality Youth Sport Program and Teaching Life Skills Through Sport.
Life skills transfer is defined as an ongoing process where an individual applies a skill learned in one context to another context (Pierce, Camiré, & Gould, 2017). Within sport, this could involve the application of skills such as teamwork, communication or honesty learned on the playing field to situations at home, school or work. Life skills transfer is essential in helping youth athletes thrive within and beyond sport.
Similar to life skills development, athletes can experience transfer implicitly (i.e., without support from coaches) or explicitly (i.e., deliberate actions by coaches to support transfer; Turnnidge, Côté, & Hancock, 2014). However, the evidence supports an intentional approach to life skills transfer to help enhance athletes’ awareness and understanding of the transfer process (e.g., Bean, Kramers, Forneris, & Camiré, 2018).
Below are four strategies that coaches can intentionally use to support athletes in transferring life skills beyond sport, based on the growing literature on this topic (e.g., Allen, Rhind, & Koshy, 2015; Bean et al., 2018; Chinkov & Holt, 2016; Jørgenson, Lemyre, & Holt, 2019; Kendellen, Camiré, Bean, Forneris, & Thompson, 2017; Pierce et al., 2017; Pierce, Kendellen, Camiré, & Gould, 2018). An example of each strategy is provided below using the skill of relaxation, related to emotional regulation.
- Support athletes’ own transfer process
- Foster the mastery of life skills amongst athletes by providing a safe and supportive environment.
- Discuss life skills transfer with athletes to enhance their awareness and understanding of potential opportunities to apply skills within and beyond sport.
- Recognize that transfer is a process that will look different for individual athletes – some athletes may take longer or shorter to internalize certain skills, or may require support to address specific needs.
- Example – Ask athletes to describe what they need in order to feel relaxed, such as listening to music during a sport competition and while they are preparing for a test.
- Encourage athlete reflection on transfer experiences
- Implement structured opportunities for athletes to consider how transfer can or did occur through debriefing and reflection exercises during practices and competition. Encourage weekly journaling on specific transfer experiences to help athletes understand circumstances that prevented transfer from occurring
- Be aware that athletes’ abilities to engage in reflection may change over time and with cognitive maturity.
- Example – Ask athletes to share examples with their teammates of times they were successful and unsuccessful at relaxing prior to an important event (e.g., shooting a penalty shot, public speaking), and encourage reflection on the process and/or the performance based on these experiences.
- Create opportunities for athletes to apply life skills beyond sport
- Organize activities and events that provide athletes with opportunities to apply their learned skills outside of sport within a supportive environment, such as team fundraisers.
- Be aware of and make connections between the contexts athletes will engage in, such as being a team player in sport and during group projects at school. Congruence between learning contexts is important for life skills development and transfer.
- Example – At the end-of-season team party, ask athletes to prepare a short speech to thank their parents/guardians for their ongoing support throughout the season. Encourage athletes to use the skills they learned in sport related to relaxation to help prepare for speaking in front of a group.
- Develop partnerships in the community
- Build links with parents/guardians, teachers, and community members to develop a shared understanding of how athletes can transfer life skills, including supporting these processes and providing opportunities for athletes to apply skills.
- Create structured opportunities for team involvement in the community, such as volunteering at a soup kitchen or community event. Athletes can practice their learned life skills, such as leadership or communication skills, within the community among supportive adults.
- Invite former athletes, professional athletes, and/or recognized community members to share their own transfer experiences with athletes on your team.
- Example – Connect with your athletes’ parents/guardians and/or teachers to share the relaxation strategies practiced in sport to support their transfer to other contexts, such as when completing homework or prior to a test.
About the Author(s)
Sara Kramers is a doctoral student at the University of Ottawa within the School of Human Kinetics. Her research examines the teaching and development of life skills within the youth sport context, coaching education, as well as the evaluation and quality of youth sport programming.
Dr. Corliss Bean is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia Okanagan within the School of Health and Exercise Sciences. She is also the Research and Evaluation Specialist at Youth Research and Evaluation eXchange at York University. Her research has focused on program evaluation within youth sport programs. Corliss is heavily involved in research within the community and has worked with organizations at the local and national levels to develop curriculum and evaluate programs.
Allen, G., Rhind, D., & Koshy, V. (2015). Enablers and barriers for male students transferring life skills from the sports hall into the classroom. Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health, 7, 53-67.
Bean, C., Kramers, S., Forneris, T., & Camiré, M. (2018). The implicit/explicit continuum of life skills development and transfer. Quest, 70, 456-470.
Chinkov, A. E., & Holt, N. L. (2016). Implicit transfer of life skills through participation in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 28, 139-153.
Jørgensen, H., Lemyre, P. N., & Holt, N. (2019). Multiple learning contexts and the development of life skills among Canadian junior national team biathletes. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology (advance online publication).
Kendellen, K., Camiré, M., Bean, C., Forneris, T., & Thompson, J. (2017). Integrating life skills into Golf Canada’s youth programs: Insights into a successful research to practice partnership. Journal of Sport Psychology in Action, 8, 34-46. doi:10.1080/21520704.2016.1205699
Pierce, S., Gould, D., & Camiré, M. (2017). Definition and model of life skills transfer. International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 10, 186-211.
Pierce, S., Kendellen, K., Camiré, M., & Gould, D. (2018). Strategies for coaching for life skills transfer. Journal of Sport Psychology in Action, 9, 11-20.
Turnnidge, J., Côté, J., & Hancock, D. J. (2014). Positive youth development from sport to life: Explicit or implicit transfer? Quest, 66, 203-217. doi:10.1080/00336297.2013.867275
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