The impact of an out-of-school swimming program for underserved children and youth on stakeholders
The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of an out-of-school swimming program (OSSP) for underserved children and youth on its stakeholders. Specific research questions (a) explored the impact of the OSSP on children and youth, (b) described the perspectives and practices of instructors working in the OSSP, (c) examined the factors which shaped these perspectives and practices, and (d) described community partners’(CPs) perceptions of the OSSP. Participants were 200 children and youth who attended the OSSP, 2 female instructors, 4 CPs associated with the OSSP, and parents of the children and youth who participated in the program. A theoretical perspective was derived from the literature on socialization, as well as community-engaged scholarship. A mixed-methods design was used to measure the program impact on children and youth. Aquatic skill and knowledge of water safety were measured through assessments. These data were examined through descriptive and inferential statistical procedures. Additional data were collected through qualitative methods. The perspectives, practices, and perceptions of the instructors and CPs were also measured using interpretive methods including, non-participant observation, informal interviews, formal interviews, document analysis, and written feedback. Standard interpretive methods were employed to analyze the data these techniques yielded. Several key findings emerged: (a) the children and youth improved their aquatic skill and knowledge of water safety and became confident in their aquatic ability and knowledge, (b) the instructors were highly skilled and had well-developed sets of beliefs about teaching swimming and working with disadvantaged children and youth by the end of the OSSP, and (c) the CPs found the OSSP to be relevant, to have a high level of reciprocity, and to be resilient. The OSSP was shown to counter structural, institutional, personal, and cultural barriers that limited underserved children’s and youths’ access to and value of swimming. The study suggests well trained instructors can be a component to overcoming these barriers. Others aiming to design similar programs may benefit from examining the organizational structure and content of the OSSP.