University of Illinois at Chicago

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How Sports-Based Youth Development Staff Support Marginalized Youth Through Multiple Public Health Crises

posted on 2023-05-01, 00:00 authored by Melanie Tran
Dual public health crises—the COVID-19 pandemic and systemic racism—have amplified existing health inequities, particularly for racial and ethnic minority youth in the United States. Need is high, yet treatment accessibility for vulnerable youth and capacity of traditional school/mental health services are limited. Out-of-school time programs reach >18% of U.S. youth, have a rich history of tackling social issues, and benefit youth academic, physical, and mental health outcomes. One type of program, Sports-Based Youth Development, typically serves underserved youth and is well-positioned to address persistent and rising physical and mental health inequities. SBYD staff are key to delivering quality programs that yield positive outcomes and have been critical in responding to youth needs during the public health crises. Thus, supporting staff is crucial for youth. In this community-based study we collaborated with 6 SBYD programs serving low-child opportunity neighborhoods in Chicago to 1) Describe the well-being of SBYD staff at work, and 2) Characterize how SBYD staff supported youth through dual public health crises. Within a larger study that utilized a mixed method design, surveys were collected to assess staff well-being (e.g., burnout). Maximum variation sampling was used to select participants for 1-hr semi-structured interviews. Ten were eligible and seven were interviewed. SBYD staff (n = 7) answered questions about how they supported youth though the COVID-19 pandemic and a period of heightened racial tensions. Interviews were analyzed via thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006). Survey results indicated moderate staff burnout and average work engagement. Qualitative findings yielded three main themes: 1) Staff provided holistic support to youth through a range of emotional, instrumental, and informational supports, as well as through building trusted relationships across settings; 2) Staff provided contextually-responsive support; 3) Staff were flexible in responding to youth needs. Findings will be shared with partners to tailor staff support and development, with implications for improving program quality and youth outcomes in communities most impacted by COVID-19 and racial upheaval.



Mehta, Tara G


Meinzer, Michael



Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level

  • Masters

Degree name

MA, Master of Arts

Committee Member

Z i n s s e r , K a t h e r i n e

Submitted date

May 2023

Thesis type



  • en

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