Building Belonging at School: Sports and Extracurricular Activities 

 In Belonging

In 2023, Springtide embarked on new research with students from Catholic schools from across the country. The findings revealed some specific insights around creating a sense of belonging for students. 

In this post, we share some insights inspired by this research and other Springtide data on building belonging through activities outside of academics. 

Our Catholic school data show that participating in sports teams and clubs and spending time with friends are common ways students say they feel a sense of belonging at their school. 

On the flip side, 24% of students say that coaches or mentors influence their faith and spiritual life, but only 16% turn to them when they want to talk about life’s big questions. While students report slightly higher numbers in these two areas regarding teachers (45% and 19%, respectively), there is still a gap in how willing young people are to enter into conversations with adults about what matters. 

The State of Religion & Young People 2020: Relational Authority offers coaches and group leaders a framework that helps influence “beyond the game,” providing a way to build trust, share expertise, and build belonging outside of the activity at hand.

These are the five dimensions of Relational Authority:

  • Listening means being curious about, engaged in, and remembering what another person said. 

  • Transparency means sharing experiences, seeking commonalities, and being open with information that impacts others. 

  • Integrity means following up, following through, being accountable, and being authentic. 

  • Care means a commitment to the patient and careful work of supporting young people as they navigate questions of identity, community, and meaning. 

  • Expertise means specialized wisdom and skill that, when combined with listening, transparency, integrity, and care, is the foundation for meaningful relationships.

Share experiences by telling stories about your life in ways that encourage others to share as well. Young people want to know you as a person. Sharing personal things that matter to you—a friendship that means a lot, the type of music you love, your favorite kind of book, a question you find yourself thinking about—adds humanity to any interaction. When shared in ways that maintain appropriate boundaries, these kinds of details can become the basis for trust, which is the foundation for belonging. 

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