Teaching values through physical education to at-risk youth in Spain: an intervention program

Numéro 5 | Football et violence

VARIA - pp. 64-96

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Pedro-Jesus Jiménez Martin

Departamento de Ciencias Sociales de la Actividad Física, del Deporte y del Ocio, Facultad de Ciencias de la Actividad Física y del Deporte – INEF, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid
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Javier Duran González

Departamento de Ciencias Sociales de la Actividad Física, del Deporte y del Ocio, Facultad de Ciencias de la Actividad Física y del Deporte – INEF, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid
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The aim of this research was to confirm an improvement in the values of self-control and integration of an intervention program for at-risk youth through physical activity and sport using Donald Hellison’s Personal and Social Responsibility Program as a benchmark. The study is descriptive and used a qualitative methodology based on the participatory action research model. Sampling was non-probabilistic and purposely carried out within the school physical education timetable at 11 schools offering Social Guarantee Programs in Madrid at two levels: 12 university student teachers and 293 teenagers (men and women) within the age range of 14 to 18 years, who had dropped out of or failed in the school system, or had never regularly attended school. The qualitative techniques used for data collection were: questionnaire, personal interview, group discussion, polarity profile, class diary and sociometric test. Given the few programs and studies on this subject in Spain, the contribution of this paper is to provide different strategies in the classroom intervention, and to offers new insights on its implementation for people interested in deploying Hellison’s model.

Key Word: values education, youth at risk, youth development, underserved youth, sport programs.


Physical activity and sport are undoubtedly key phenomena in contemporary society. Whether as a healthy practice or mass entertainment, they are an omnipresent part of our contemporary life style.

In the past, prominent authors in the area of physical education have indicated the important role that physical activity and sport play in promoting social and personal values (Bredemeier, 1994; Buchanan, 2001; Cothran, 2001; Hellison, 1973, 1978, 1995; Martinek & Hellison, 1997, 1998; Miller, Bredemeier & Shields, 1997; Schilling, 2001). But contrary to the misleading rhetoric presenting all manifestations of sport as something good and positive, a minimum of critical reserve suggests that this phenomenon is, like the human condition, full of ambivalence and contradictions. Physical activity and sport can be a source of integration, cooperation and tolerance, but also of conflicts, exclusion, violence, etc. Practicing sport alone does not build up positive values; it merely reveals the values that the sportsperson already ascribed to. In order to really provide a values education, it is necessary to establish a precise methodology with definite aims, a number of activities and practical strategies to implement them and a suitable means of evaluation to confirm whether there has been an improvement in pupils’ values and attitudes after the intervention (Buchanan, 2001; Figley, 1984; Hellison, 1991, 1995; Jiménez 2008; Wandzilak, 1985).

One of the key challenges facing physical education in the 21st century will be to give significant attention to disadvantaged groups like “youth at-risk”. These are marginal populations that, though they have always been there in our midst, have not attracted society’s attention in the past.

“Youth at-risk” are considered as young men and women having in common that they live in unfavorable circumstances in a destructive environment of poverty and social marginalization. This can drag them into harmful behavior, such as drugs consumption, delinquency, violence, marginalization, educational underachievement, etc. (Collingwood, 1997; Danish & Hellen, 1997; Hellison, 1995; Lawson, 1997; Martinek & Hellison, 1998; Pitter & Andrews, 1997; Ruiz et al. 2006). These young people do not have the resources to successfully go about their life and deal with the environment in which they live, some weaknesses being deficient interpersonal relationship skills and future prospects; absence of positive values, such as responsibility, respect and discipline; lack of commitment and a tendency to develop unhealthy lifestyles; lack of self-esteem and social, cognitive and emotional growth opportunities, and, worst of all, they also hold the terrible belief that have been abandoned by society. Other negative factors that characterize the culture of these young people are: rejection of schooling, conflictive behavior, family breakdown and the fear of making decisions (Collingwood, 1997, Lawson, 1997; Danish & Hellen, 1997; Martinek, 1997, Martinek & Hellison, 1998).

Over the last two decades, there have been several intervention programs to promote positive behavior and attitudes among at-risk youth through physical activity and sport in the United States. The above-mentioned programs have spread across the country, and we can single out: Donald Hellison's Model of Personal and Social Responsibility (Hellison, 1973, 1978, 1995); the Project Effort (Martinek, Mclaughlin & Schilling, 1999; Ruiz et al., 2006); the First Choice (Collingwood, 1997), the Goal Program and Super Program (Danish & Hellen, 1997); the Yes Program (McCann & Peters, 1996), etc. The general framework governing all intervention programs with such populations can be divided into five key areas: develop empathy, further mature moral reasoning, encourage participation in activities, develop personal autonomy and set goals for the future. The studies conducted on these programs confirm that a correctly planned physical - sports activity can help to improve the quality of life and the personal and social well-being of these populations, providing not only benefits on the physical and psychological level, but also from the social, vocational, recreational and preventive point of view, etc. (Cutforth, 1997; Collingwood 1997; Hellison, 1995; Hellison et al. 2000; Martinek & Hellison, 1997, 1998; and Miller, Bredemeier & Shields, 1997).

The aim of this research was to confirm an improvement in the values of self-control and integration of an intervention program for at-risk youth in Spain through physical activity and sport using Donald Hellison’s Personal and Social Responsibility Program as a benchmark. Of the several studies used to design, both the theoretical foundations and the practical strategies of the program of intervention, it can single out just three: a) Donald Hellison's Model of Social and Personal Responsibility, which was the principal model reference (Hellison, 1995); b) Maria Victoria Trianes Torres and Angels Muñoz Sanchez’ Program of Social and Affective Education based on Spivack and Shure’s North American model called Interpersonal Cognitive Problem Solving Thinking (Trianes & Muñoz, 1997); and c) Maria José Díaz Aguado's work in the area of school violence prevention in Spain (Díaz, 1996). Given the few programs and studies on this subject in Spain, the contribution of this paper is to provide different strategies in the classroom intervention, and to offers new insights on its implementation for people interested in deploying Hellison’s model.


The study used a qualitative methodology based on the participatory action research model, since this approach matched our aims of changing and improving social reality and setting up self-critical and reflective groups (Perez & Nieto, 1992-93; Elliot 1990). The term action research was first coined by the German psychologist Kurt Lewin in 1946 and involves the study of a social situation with the aim of improving the quality of action. This model uses a spiral sequence —problem identification, data collection, design and plan of action sequencing, implementation of actions, evaluation and review— with feedback of the results of the intervention. The participatory action research model comes from applied social psychology, particularly the field of community psychology, which was born in the US as part of the 1960s reformist movement and was promoted in relation to the struggle of minorities for civil rights (León & Montero, 2003).


The study was carried out at 11 institutions, seven workshop-classrooms and five institutions with Social Guarantee provision as part of Madrid Regional Government’s Compensatory Education Program, within the schools’ physical education timetable. The purpose of both types of institution is to provide pupils with basic and vocational training to prepare them for the world of work. They differ in that institutions with Social Guarantee Programs receive youngsters aged from 17 to 21 years, whereas workshop-classrooms are attended by young people aged from 14 to 16 years.

The vocational activities developed as part of the curriculum at these institutions include: hairdressing, cooking, plumbing, construction, electricity, basic building maintenance, carpentry, gardening, and so on. Both the workshop-classrooms and Social Guarantee Programs last two years, enrolment is open all year round, and tuition is provided in small groups in order to guarantee personalized attention. There is a maximum of 100 pupils per institution. Physical and sports activity is classed within the educational program of these institutions as Complementary Activities and, as such, is not a compulsory subject. Depending on each institution’s needs, one-, one-and-a-half and two-hour classes were held on Tuesdays, Thursdays or Fridays.

The sample was divided in: Sample 1: Twelve fifth-year university student teachers (nine males and three female). All these students volunteered to do their teaching practice within the program. Sample 2: 293 Compensatory Education pupils. These pupils were divided into 16 groups. Eight were from seven workshop-classroom institutions and were aged from 14 to 16 years. The other eight groups, aged from 17 to 19 years, were from five institutions offering Social Guarantee Programs. All these pupils have a profile corresponding to what the scientific literature refers to as at-risk youth. The sample was selected non-probabilistically and purposely. The choice of the school sample and the values to be worked on emerged, prior to the intervention, from a series of meetings between the program leaders, school institutions and the research team.


Within the wide-ranging field of values, and taking Hellison's work as a reference, it was chose the two sides of responsibility —personal and social— as the key aim of the intervention. Specifically, personal responsibility is associated with the promotion of attitudes of emotional self-control, and social responsibility, with the value of the integration. The program analyzed two values:

Value 1: Self-control of emotional reactions, focusing on the prevention and re-education of violent behavior, from both the verbal and physical point of view, towards people, resources and facilities (Ortega, 1997, 1994; Stielh, 1993). The strategies applied for this value were: a) Establishment of rules on community living and the development of activities together with the pupils; and b) Reflective and viewpoint formation strategies for peaceful conflict resolution.

Value 2: Integration, focusing on three perspectives: general group integration, coeducational integration and intercultural integration (Hellison, 1995). The strategies that were associated with this value were: a) Leadership of a warm-up class or an activity session; and b) Establishment of integration rules for sports practice.

Other reinforcement strategies were also included for both values: a) Class collaboration activities (hand out and collect in material, take the register, check on showers and objects left behind, negotiating committee); and b) Peer and teacher support roles.

Before beginning the intervention university student teachers held four informative meetings to introduce the research framework: Compensatory Education program, student profile, peer experience in the previous years and the program to be developed. According to the gathered information, they all highlighted the importance of these meetings and confirmed that they had helped them to establish a good rapport with pupils. In personal interviews, they added that these meetings should include an initial meeting with pupils at the educational institutions to present the program.

The table shows the progression of program application throughout the academic year, showing the strategies, research techniques and informative meetings held with student teachers.



Research Methods

Informative Meetings


4 meetings with the people in charge of the Compensatory Education Program


4 informative meetings with the student teachers.




Rules adapted in activities

Establishing Rules.           Peaceful Conflict Resolution


Establishing rules


Collaborative Activities


For teachers and  pupils





5th Informative Meeting









6th Informative Meeting







Collaborative Activities



For teachers



7th Informative Meeting








For pupils






Warm-Up Session Leadership


For teachers




8th and 9th Informative Meeting






For teachers




10th Informative Meeting





Unihock Competition









For teachers and pupils


Class diary


Final Evaluation


Individual Meetings

Progression of program application.

Note that, as in the Buchanan’s work (2001), we had to hold numerous control, informative and problem-solving meetings throughout the academic year with the teachers who were applying the program, because we found, when we came to implement Donald Hellison's model, that a lot of information was unavailable.

Data Collection and Procedures

Data collection was divided in:

A. University student teachers research techniques: a. Group Discussion. Two group discussions were held. The discussion format was the interview of focused opinions. For information analysis, the tapes recording the group discussions were fully transcribed, using the contents analysis technique to analyze the first group from a semantic point of view and tone analysis for the second discussion. b. Personal interview. As for the group discussion, we used focused opinions. The information was analyzed using the same procedure as for the group discussion. c. Questionnaire. Four questionnaires were administered. d. Class diary. Throughout the whole intervention the student teachers were asked to keep a class diary where they were to enter the activities carried out; methodology used to motivate the pupils; pupils’ general and pre-activity attitude; events; personal sensation in class; and conclusion: what do I think that I need to work on in the following session?. To analyze the diary, it was used the content analysis technique and was resort to the codifiers' utilization (Krippendorff, 1997).

B. Compensatory Education pupils research techniques: Questionnaire. Three questionnaires were administered. They were structured as panel questionnaires (recommended for longitudinal studies).

Triangulation of Techniques

It was used a triangulation process to assure the validity and reliability of the results, where we compared and crossed the information from the different research techniques that we applied (Buchanan, 2001; Cothran, 2001; Schilling, 2001):

A. Analysis of the strategies established in the model: questionnaires, personal interviews and group discussions. B. Analysis of the evolution of self-control: questionnaires, diaries, personal interviews and group discussions. C. Analysis of the evolution of integration: questionnaires, diaries, personal interviews and group discussions.

Results and discussion

To improve the clarity of the results, they have been divided into two sections: 1. strategies applied in the program and 2. values of the program. In addition, they have been further divided into two levels related with the sample: information supplied by university student teachers (UST) and information supplied by compensatory education pupils (CEP).

Program strategies

Although the initial informative meetings were rated positively, student teachers suggested that there was a need to hold meetings with the previous years’ student teachers and institution tutors. Also they demanded specific information about the available material resources and facilities, more definite information about the assigned groups and even the possibility of entering into contact with the pupils beforehand to get to know each other.

Strategy 1: Establishing rules in class

a. UST. All the teachers defended the need to establish classroom rules and, within this chapter, special importance was attached to rules related to self-control designed to prevent violence. At a methodological level, it was found that, of the different options that we gave the student teachers, the most used were: make it clear from the start of the course that rules would be set by all; establish rules progressively as required and always after reflection with the pupils. As for the assessment of the rules established in the program, only the rule of having a shower after class was abolished on the grounds of time. Also existing rules were further specified to make their aim clearer: “do not to spit in the floor”, “treat others with respect”, “respect other sport centre users”.

b. CEP. Whereas most pupils liked to have rules (81.1 %), we found that a number of pupils (17.7 %) said that they were against rules. In addition, it was found that the pupils were fully aware of the rules established as part of the program, especially the ban on smoking and rules related to the self-control, as well as rules added by teachers in response to group requirements.

Regarding this strategy it was interesting to find that: i) the pupils mentioned most of the rules established as part of the program; ii) the rules they most often mentioned were related to attitudes linked to self-control, such as respect for the teacher, classmates and material; iii) the huge majority (129 responses for as opposed to 29 responses against) said they liked the fact that there were rules. Responses included: “they are indispensable for community living”, “they are a basis for good group relations and enjoyment", "they encourage participation in and the development of the activities", "they stop unruliness and establish order, preventing everybody from doing their own thing".

Strategy 2: Application of procedures in the activities

a. UST. Of the practical procedures offered in the program, the most used ones that met with the best response from pupils were: all players have to touch the ball before scoring or shooting; get pupils to recognize their own mistakes; encourage apologies to and congratulation of opponents; give the ball to the opponent nicely and intercultural work. Procedures that worked less well were: boys and girls have to score alternately and all players have to score. Note that, in the personal interviews, teachers mentioned rules that were not in the program but which were very successful: give a goal scored by a girl a higher score; send players off if they get out of control; set a minimum number of passes before shooting; prohibit the same person from scoring twice on the run; all players have to rotate during the game; at least one girl has to touch the ball before a goal is scored.

Of the problems they encountered applying this strategy, the following stand out: general rejection by pupils of the rule; number of pupils in class; and the learned guidelines and dominance by boys as football was the main activity. To solve these problems, they stressed that the reason for the rules and the benefits for the group should always be explained, too many rules should not be established simultaneously, a rule should be applied for a longer or shorter period depending on its acceptance and the same rule should not be applied for too long.

Strategy 3: Peaceful conflict resolution

a. UST. According to the interviews, there were very few serious conflicts in class and they were controlled at all times by the institution’s tutor. Consequently, this strategy did not have to be applied. Even so, they pointed out that this strategy provided useful guidance for dealing with other simpler conflicts. As they indicated, most of the conflicts were caused by leadership struggles within the group.

Strategy 4: Leadership of class warm-up activities

a. UST. According to the information gathered from the content analysis of the personal interviews, eight teachers implemented the strategy of having pupils direct the class warm-up session and two, also had pupils take charge of the development of a session. The overall impression of applying this strategy was positive, and they stressed that the only difficulty they came up against was adapting the strategy to the pupils’ maturity level.

Strategy 5: Collaborative activities

a. UST. Almost all the teachers applied some of the program proposals. The activities that worked best were: collect in and tidy up material; hand out and collect in the class questionnaires; the negotiating committee and control of objects left behind. Of the difficulties preventing this tool from being applied, the following stood out: number of pupils; unpunctuality and non-attendance; high group turnover; and group pressure. It was found that teachers did not apply the methodology recommended in the program because they found groups to be too immature to accept responsibilities. Even so, they did follow methodological advice, such as directly designating a pupil or asking for volunteers and pointing out how this action benefited the group.

The words of the university student teachers themselves mirror the overall usefulness of the program:  “It is positive to see now at the end of course that things work, that they speak to you, that they rely on you and that they value you, that they know that you are there ... ". / “Although we did not have much time, we achieved quite a lot: they listen to you, they think things over and they improve as people". / “I believe that physical education is a good therapy to educate these boys in values, and I think that they feel the same and are realizing this" / “Every day I am surer that physical education and sports are suitable instruments for encouraging and promoting the social integration of these lads".

Program values

The results of this section have been rated as three different values: A. changes in pupils’ general attitude; B. changes in emotional self-control; C. changes in integration. At the same time, the results were presented at two levels related with the sample: information supplied by university student teachers and information supplied by pupils.

Value 1: General evolution of pupils' attitudes in class

a. UST. According to information taken from the initial and final questionnaires, the general class atmosphere evolved positively from the point of view of personal relations, confidence and communication with the pupils, as well as participation in the activities. The improvement in confidence and communication was reflected in the fact that the pupils confided personal problems to teachers. As for participation, note that, though it improved, the interest in and enthusiasm for the activity was a key factor in many cases.  Similarly, the number of positive entries about the general class atmosphere was double that of negative entries in class diaries, where most of the negative attitudes were recorded in the first few months of the intervention program.

Value 2: Evolution of the value of emotional self-control

a. UST. According to the information gathered from the questionnaires, the behavioral traits that evolved best during the intervention were in descending order: conflicts in class; respect for facilities; improvement of self-control in anger situations; no smoking in class; respect for the rules; respect for the material and respect for teachers when they are speaking. The worst score went to respect for peers, confirming that the improvement was related to the figure of teachers and their educational offerings. In the personal interviews the teachers reported that, apart from the pupils’ age, the self-control value was influenced by several extramural factors, like, for example, family problems, weekend experiences, or other things that had happened to them in the institution outside physical education classes. From the analysis of the content of the diaries, although we found that the number of positive and negative entries was more or less the same, we were able to confirm, on examining the month-by-month evolution, that the number of negative behavioral incidents was downward throughout the intervention.

b. CEP. Although almost all pupils stated that they respected the class material throughout the intervention, the same cannot be said to apply to their self-control when angry. A total of 29 % of pupils stated that they found this hard, and this percentage was unchanged throughout the intervention.

Value 3: Evolution of the value of integration

It was examined the value of the integration from three viewpoints: general group integration, coeducational integration and intercultural integration (Spaniards / foreigners, gypsies / non-gypsies).

General integration

a. UST. According to the results of the personal interviews, the biggest obstacle to integration was the high group turnover over the academic year. The above circumstance prevented the formation of a stable group where strong bonds could be forged among members. On the other hand, they also agreed that the problems of integration were due to the attitude and negative behavior of some pupils in the class. The questionnaires confirmed a worse score for integration-related attitudes than for self-control, but some improvement was apparent in the polarity profiles.

b. CEP. According to the information gathered in the initial and final questionnaires, the pupils constantly rated their level of integration positively throughout the whole intervention.

Degree of coeducational integration

a. UST. According to the information from the questionnaires, there was a negative relation between the two sexes. Even so, this moved away from the outright rejection of female players to their passive acceptance, that is, to say, they were allowed to take part as long as they did not spoil the game.

b. CEP. Whereas pupils were originally in favor of mixed activities, the number of positive responses dropped considerably in the final questionnaire. In addition, responses rejecting sexist stereotypes, like “sport is for boys” or “girls are no good at sports” improved only slightly.

Degree of intercultural integration

a. UST. According to the questionnaires, there was a positive evolution of the relation between Spaniards and foreigners in eight groups, and a negative one in five. Regarding the integration of gypsy pupils, they all suggested that it improved on the whole and that these pupils even managed to play leadership roles within their groups.

b. CEP. According to the questionnaires, pupils generally rated their relation with the foreign pupils in the class as very positive. Even so, there are some contradictions. For example, regarding the racist stereotype “immigrants take Spaniard’s jobs", 37.9 % of pupils agreed. On the other hand, almost all pupils were in favor of “immigrants being given easier access to state education".

The positive evolution in the general class atmosphere on the part of all the people involved in the program was closely related to the figure of the teacher and the time spent with the pupils in the program. The best scoring value was group control, probably determined by the experience gathered throughout the intervention.

The worst score was closely related to the behavior of certain pupils that, apparently, failed to evolve positively. Many young men that join these programs have both legal and behavioral problems, and a year-long intervention by teachers without sufficient psychological training could have been the reason.

The failure of the coeducational integration to evolve positively should be construed, not as conflicts between boys and girls, but as the rejection of female participation in sports. The reason for this is that the only activity that motivated pupils was football, and girls was not very skilled or interested in this sport. Even so, the success of the unihock competition held at the end of the course, in which teams had to be mixed and the female player was promoted, opened the door to research on how work with cooperative sports, new activities in which all the pupils initially have the same level of skill and knowledge, could be a suitable resource for improving this integration.

As regards intercultural integration, although there were found to be some problems in class, they were motivated more by group leadership struggles than on the grounds of racism. Even so, we must be alert, since these centers have a large immigrant population.

The self-control of emotional reactions improved principally with regard to community living. This was suggested by the drop in situations of aggression and classroom conflicts and increased respect for classroom routines and the figure of the teacher. However, no improvement was found with respect to peers.

This experience tells us that these young people have so many problems that it is far from easy to change their attitudes. Our goal should be to focus on improvements at the individual rather than group level.

A change in the youngster’s family situation and environment would be a great help for managing to promote the development of more positive attitudes on the part of the pupils.

Barriers to Commitment

Following the structure of works by Cothran (2001) and Schilling (2001), we describe the constraints on program application. They can be addressed from two viewpoints:

A. University student teachers. Even though their commitment went beyond what was expected (they took part in trips outside school hours, missed university classes, contributed their own material, etc.), they determined the application of the program in several aspects: Because they had to work on other university subjects, some of them failed to attend all the informative and control meetings established in the program. Note also that they were participating in this program as part of their compulsory teaching practice, and, although they were all volunteers, this did not stop some of them from disengaging at some points of the research.

B. Social Guarantee Program. Some of the improvements that could be introduced in an attempt to more effectively promote values and attitudes with these youngsters are: Make physical education classes compulsory like the other workshops at the institution; coordinate work on values, aims, behavior and attitudes between workshops and physical education classes; engage physical activity and sport professionals trained specifically to work with this type of populations favor the continuity of the work and promote contact with pupils; define the role of the institution’s tutor in physical education classes to prevent differences with the student teacher over class management; provide suitable sports facilities at all institutions, setting minimums for usable materials and two one-hour or hour-and-a-half classes per week; establish small groups of 10 or 15 pupils and not the 30 or 35 that we find at some institutions; and supply the physical education teacher with information on weekly events at the institution or workshops, activities scheduled at the institution, new pupils, pupils that have dropped out or been expelled; give the physical education teachers access to assessment and staff meetings; and add physical education to the pupil's report.


While at the outset we might have thought that there would not be enough time in a single one- to two-hour session per week to work really significant changes with these youngsters, it is true that we did manage to amend some attitudes.

Regarding the key values that the program addressed, it can be stress that, as far as emotional self-control is concerned, they managed to reduce the number of violent and challenging situations in the classes at all institutions, and the pupils were able to respect and to accept all the rules and operating procedures established in the program. As regards the value of integration, there was no significant improvement in sports practice from the coeducational point of view. All it achieved was to get boys to tolerate the participation of girls in some activities. However, they ignored the girls, who were ultimately relegated to the passive role of being present but not really playing. As far intercultural integration is concerned, it was found that there was not a lot to work on, since there were no conflicts with foreign pupils. Even so, some racist incidents were reported at some institutions, and they informed us about the importance of undertaking preventive activities.

Additionally, it should stress that the really significant positive changes took place in individual people, and there were cases of youngsters (10 % of participants) whose behavior was not modified at all. These were youngsters with extremely serious personal problems that often disrupted class activities. The help of a specialist would have been useful in these cases. These are pupils aged from 14 to 19 years that have had negative experiences, during which they learned to behave in a certain way and “be they way they are ". Just one year’s intervention is insufficient to change structures that have become so firmly entrenched.

We think that projects like this need to be extended to a minimum of three or four years working with the same group of pupils, and providing two hour-and-a-half classes per week. Also, we believe that a priority group for action would be the youngest pupils of 8-10 years of age, since negative behaviors are less firmly established and, consequently, the pupils are better able to adapt. We do not claim, though, that they should change their behavior altogether, since this is sometimes a mechanism of defense that they need to survive in the environment in which they are developing. What we can do, at least, is get them to accept a series of basic community living procedures.

From a methodological point of view, we found that several strategies needed to be amended:

A. As regards establishing rules, the new proposed methodology was: 1) determine the priority rules, rules that have already been met or rules that cannot be established based on group characteristics; 2) make it clear from the very first meetings of the class that, generally, rules will be established in class as required; 3) establish rules in response to developments; 4) always explain why the rule is established; 5) make it clear that when a rule is broken it is a problem that concerns the whole group; and 6) relate the learning of the rules to their social and professional future.

B. As regards having the group take responsibility for the class warm-up, the new proposal was: 1) determine how much responsibility the group can take based on its characteristics; 2) first draw on volunteers who are experienced sportspeople and try to get the leaders involved; 3) if the group is not mature enough, have the teacher provide guidance and ask each pupil to demonstrate an exercise as he or she goes; 4) for mature groups set up small groups to implement this strategy; 5) look for incentives to motivate the group, like playing their preferred sport later or designing the warm-up session for their favorite sport, etc.

C. As regards collaborative class activities: 1) determine how much responsibility the group can take based on its characteristics; 2) make it clear from the very first meetings of the class that collaborative activities will be established to improve class dynamics; 3) have pupils help to collect in and tidy away the material as of the very first class; 4) show that failure to collaborate is a problem that concerns the whole group; 5) use volunteer pupils at first and, if there are none, personally designate a pupil being sure to pick a different one every day; 6) establish an activity time schedule depending on how responsible each pupil is.

Thanks to this experience the program of intervention (Figure) was reworked. The new program contains the following phases, levels and aims, with their respective strategies. This program targets any educators, teachers, trainers, monitors, technical personnel, socio-cultural entertainers, social volunteers, etc., working or intending to work as an educator or practitioner in values education through physical activity and sport adapted to any population profile.


Phase 1: Confidence and participation

Level I. - Establishment of a positive atmosphere based on confidence building


a) Advice on establishing positive relations with pupils

b) Introduction of the aims of the program

c) Establishment of class rules

d) Distribution of responsibilities

Phase 2: Promotion of values through physical activity and sport


a) Selection and transformation of activities to promote values

b) Design of a session structure to promote values

c) Drafting of rules to be applied in the activities

d) Peaceful conflict resolution

e) Strategic distribution for team and group formation

f) Sports experiences with successful women's teams

Phase 3.-Transfer of the learned elements to other areas of daily life


a) Reflection about dilemmas and clarifying dialogue

b) Critical thought and viewpoint formation

c) Participation in official sports competitions

d) Organization of out-of-school sport activities

e) Design, organization and execution of a project designed by the group


Figure. Program for values education through physical activity and sport.

We fully agree with the results of Buchanan (2001), Schilling (2001) and Lickona (1991), confirming how important the educators' profile is for work in values education and, more especially, with at risk youth. Our experience has revealed important traits for educators. They are summarized as: empathy, coherence, perseverance, know how to and be able to set limits and always explain the reason for doing what they do.

Within the Madrid Regional Government’s Social Guarantee Program, this experience served to raise the awareness of the people at the helm about the important educational role that physical activity and sport can play with these youngsters, providing that it is implemented using a special-purpose methodology. Even so, we are aware that, in spite of being an enormously positive experience for the pupils, our achievement is but a temporary fix for a situation calling for both political and educational action that is well beyond our means. In fact physical activity and the sport, on their own, are no more than a "patch" for a state of affairs that cries out for concerted priority and direct political, economic and social action on the part of society.

No matter how much specialized education these youngsters receive, if these socially and economically disadvantaged environments are not eradicated, they are very likely to sink again into harmful behavior, like delinquency, drugs, violence, teenage pregnancies, etc., due to the hardship to which they are subject daily. This work could be a testimony to the great deal that remains to be done in today’s democratic systems to assure that, some day, all members of society are at liberty to develop to their full potential. This is only possible through the attainment of a number of minimum educational requirements that even today, in 21st-century Spain, many youngsters are very long way from achieving.


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We would like to thanks Donald Hellison for his suggestions to improve this manuscript and future research on this subject.