Many of today’s youth face unmet basic needs; are involved with anti-social peers; experience family conflict and instabilities; and suffer from emotional, behavioral, and mental health issues. Because of this, youth development programs are extremely important in promoting healthy youth development and addressing risk factors in youth.

LiFEsports – Learning in Fitness and Education through Sports – is a  unique partnership between The Ohio State University’s College of Social Work, Department of Athletics, and Department of Recreational
Sports that is working to advance the practice of youth development nationally and internationally.

LiFEsports aims to increase the number and quality of sport and recreational programs available to youth, especially those from vulnerable circumstances. The initiative currently focuses on three primary strategies for doing this work:

  • Increase the number and quality of sport and recreational programs designed to promote positive youth development among at-risk youth.
  • Increase the number of highly-skilled youth development professionals in the field
  • Build knowledge and best practices in the areas of youth development, social work, and physical activity.

The LiFEsports Initiative is the second largest of its kind in the country, with over 650 local youth served each year in the summer camp, 6 annual clinics hosted on campus, and a Youth Leadership Academy designed specifically for older youth.  Among participants in the 2016 LiFEsports Summer Camp, 77.7% indicated they can better control their feelings because of LiFEsports, and 83.5% report that they are better at working in a team.  Further, 46.1% of LiFE Sports youth were returners from a previous year’s camp. 74.8% indicated that because of this program, they were more likely to engage in at least one hour of physical activity.  Also in its 2016-17 program year, LiFEsports prepared 152 OSU students for careers involving youth development through classroom and field-based learning opportunities.  This initiative became the first program at The Ohio State University to receive United Way Grant Funding and is a national model for university outreach and youth development programs.


For more information, read the 2016-17 LiFEsports Annual Review and check out the LiFEsports website.