Background/Purpose School-based physical activity (PA) opportunities beyond PE classes could potentially address the chronic inactivity of vulnerable youth (i.e., urban/minority/low socio-economic/females/non-athletes), yet little research examines why high school-aged youth might attend voluntary opportunities, especially in urban communities. The purpose of this study was to examine urban high school students' rationale for attending after-school Physical Activity Clubs (PACs).
Method Adult leaders formed PACs at 14 urban high schools as “fun, safe, supportive places to do PA with friends.” Clubs were student-centered, targeted traditionally inactive students, and avoided competitive sports. Over two years, 557 PAC sessions were conducted averaging 18.2 students (83% females, 17% males). One hundred and two semi-structured interviews were conducted with 204 students. Data were analyzed using constant comparison and trustworthiness was facilitated through prolonged engagement and member checks.
Analysis/Results Six themes emerged to explain why students attended PACs: a.) health concerns (worried about weight, pre-diabetic, to stay fit, makes bodies feel good); b.) be part of something (few opportunities outside school, reason for coming to school); c.) feel safe and supported by trusted adult (absence of positive role models); d.) something positive to do, avoid trouble; e.) socialize with friends; f.) learn more than sports (little participation in sport-dominated PE classes, clamor for rhythmic activities).
Conclusions Findings suggest that PACs may be positive health-enhancing and pro-social alternatives to athletics for many students who are traditionally vulnerable to inactivity. They suggest that students' rationale for participation is multi-faceted, which may prove useful in developing and advertising future programs.
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