“I’m proud of what I achieved; I’m also ashamed of what I done”: A soccer coach’s tale of sport, status, and criminal behaviour

Daryl Cowan, Ian M. Taylor, Anthony Papathomas

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


The problem of youth crime, delinquency and gang behaviour has been at the centre of public and policy makers’ attention for several decades (Halsey & White, 2008). Moreover, with worryingly high unemployment levels of 16-24 year olds in the UK (16.6%; Office for National Statistics, 2014) and the US (14.3%; Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014), there is widespread concern about the prospects for young people. One potential panacea that has received increasing attention in recent years is the role sport can play in overcoming these issues. Despite the intuitive appeal of such a hypothesis, seldom has research explored how or why sport can be used to promote positive youth development and divert disadvantaged individuals from antisocial and criminal behaviours. The purpose of this study was to explore the life of John (a pseudonym), a soccer coach working with disadvantaged young people. Six open-ended life story interviews over a ten week period ranging between 45-75 minutes were conducted. John described how soccer was fully entwined with aspects of his former delinquent and criminal lifestyle, including missing school lessons to play soccer, the fusion of soccer and youth violence, and competing in teams with local criminals. On the other hand, a soccer program for people with limited opportunities helped him leave behind a life of delinquency, gang fighting, and selling drugs. Furthermore, he came to understand that soccer could help him satisfy his desire for social recognition in a more socially legitimate way. This study provides an insight into how soccer can be used to thwart criminal lifestyles, but also warns against uncritical assumptions that sport can serve as a panacea for deviant behaviour.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2015
EventEuropean Federation of Sport Psychology (FEPSAC) Congress - Bern, Switzerland
Duration: 14 Jul 201519 Jul 2015


ConferenceEuropean Federation of Sport Psychology (FEPSAC) Congress
Internet address


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