Implementation and perceived benefits of an after-school soccer program designed to promote social and emotional learning

A multiple case study


  • Paul M. Wright, Ph.D. Northern Illinois University
  • Steven Howell, Ph.D. Northern Illinois University
  • Jenn Jacobs, Ph.D. Northern Illinois University
  • Gabriella McLoughlin, Ph.D. Iowa State University



Social and emotional learning (SEL) competencies such as self-awareness and relationship skills are predictors of academic success, overall well-being, and avoidance of problematic behaviors. Among school-aged children, research has demonstrated that well-implemented programs teach SEL competencies and life skills (e.g., leadership, responsible decision making) that can transfer to other settings. Similar claims have been made in the field of sport-based youth development (SBYD), however, the SEL framework has not been widely applied in sport programming. Implementation, student learning, and transfer of learning in SBYD programs designed to promote SEL require further exploration. Therefore, the current study examined the implementation and perceived benefits of an after-school soccer program designed to promote SEL. Participants were six coaches and 51 students from three different sites where this program is offered. A multiple case study design was used, integrating data from customized feedback surveys, interviews, systematic observation, and field notes. Results indicated the program reflects many SBYD best practices. Although implementation varied between sites, program culture and core values were consistent. Evidence indicated students learned and applied SEL lessons in the soccer program and that transfer beyond the program was promoted. Participants were most likely to report transfer to the school setting, therefore, future studies should examine this topic more directly. Other implications for research and program implementation are discussed.