Sport Psychology for Development and Peace? Critical Reflections and Constructive Suggestions

Andrew Guest, University of Portland

Journal of Sport Psychology in Action, 2013, Volume 4, Issue 3, 169-180.

© 2013 Taylor and Francis

Linked version is the final published version.

Abstract

In the fast growing field of “Sport for Development and Peace” (SDP), often coordinated by Western organizations working in non-Western communities, many programs have a psychological orientation. Programs talk, for example, about using sport to develop life skills, to build self-esteem, to improve motivation, or to change prejudicial attitudes. This article draws on the evolving body of research addressing SDP, along with experiences with SDP in sub-Saharan Africa, to discuss both the problems and the potential for applying a psychological lens to sports and development. While I suggest caution in assuming psychological skills are central to international development—particularly as emphasizing individual level change risks obscuring the more serious structural realities facing many target communities—I will suggest that sport psychology can offer useful listening skills, research skills, and collaboration skills towards a genuine contribution to meaningful SDP.