Native American participation in youth sport: The effects of cultural influences
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Native American youth have higher rates of obesity, diabetes, alcoholism and suicide than any other ethnic group in the United States. They are not receiving the appropriate nutrition or time for physical activity, which is leading to an unhealthy lifestyle well into adulthood. Previous studies have shown that participation in sport can help alleviate many of the aforementioned problems currently ailing Native American youth, but none have been conducted on this specific ethnic group. The purpose of this study was to identify factors and cultural influences on Native American youth participation in sport. This study used both quantitative and qualitative methods to examine the sport participation levels classified by tribe, age, and gender, and cultural expectations and beliefs concerning sport. Native American athletes were recruited to complete the Student Athlete Relationship Instrument online (n = 39) and coaches were recruited to participate in interviews (n = 5). Quantitative analyses were conducted to examine the descriptive statistics, to determine which aspect of culture (Teammates, Peers, Family, or Coaches) had the most influence on sport participation, and to compare specific dimensions of cultural influences (ex: Encouragement, Support, Drugs, Alcohol, etc.). Qualitative data were used to explore the coaches' interview responses; data were transcribed and analyzed, then separated by themes. Eighty-three percent of the athletes in this study played multiple sports, with three sports being the average. Football was the most popular sport played (31%), followed by basketball (20%) and track (18%). The average age of the participants was 18 years, and 11.4% of these participants were females. Cherokee, Choctaw, and Navajo tribes had the most respondents at 15%, 10%, and 10% respectively. Family was found to have the most positive contribution to the athletes sport performance while teammates were found to have the most influence on negative behaviors. Native American youth participation in sports. The coaches collectively expressed that the most effective way to increase and retain sport participation from this group was through positive role modeling and to combine traditional games such as stickball with the modern concepts of sport while honoring their ancestors.