Building social capital: Examining the impact of Street Soccer USA on its volunteers

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Journal Article
International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 2013, 48 (1), pp. 20 - 37
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Most studies on the use of sport with marginalized populations have centered upon the impact on participants, with few studies examining the impact of these interventions on other stakeholder groups, such as volunteers. While it has been contended that volunteering provides a form of social participation and civic engagement that can foster development of citizenship and social capital, these ideas are disputed and lack empirical evidence. Thus, the purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of Street Soccer USA on its volunteers. Street Soccer USA uses soccer to provide a support system to homeless individuals for making positive life changes. The findings of this qualitative study with five teams in the United States revealed that volunteering fostered the preconditions for and actual social capital development by enhancing awareness and understanding about homelessness, building community and relationships with the homeless, enhancing passion to work in the social justice field, and developing self-satisfaction through a 'feel good' mentality. This study contributes to the ongoing discourse on the use of sport to aid in social capital development. By creating increased understanding and a sense of community between different social groups, greater community cohesion and more inclusive social capital can be developed. © The Author(s) 2011.
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