Learning in sport: from life skills to existential learning

  • Noora J. Ronkainen, Kenneth Aggerholm, Tatiana V. Ryba, Jacquelyn Allen-Collinson
  • Sport Education and Society, January 2020, Taylor & Francis
  • DOI: 10.1080/13573322.2020.1712655

Learning in and through sport - beyond the life-skills approach

Photo by Razvan Chisu on Unsplash

Photo by Razvan Chisu on Unsplash

What is it about?

Youth sport is often promoted as an important context for learning that contributes to a person’s broader development beyond sport-specific skills. A growing body of research in this area has operated within a life skills discourse that focuses on what are deemed useful and positive skills in the production of 'successful' and citizens.Here, we argue that the ideology of life skills, underpinned by ideas about sport-based positive youth development, has unduly narrowed the research on learning in sport to only what is deemed functional, teachable, and economically productive. In contrast, we explore existential learning as an alternative perspective on learning in sport. An existential approach provides a non-instrumental theory of learning with an emphasis on discontinuity, relational self and ‘becoming’, opening an avenue for exploring various forms of informal learning under-explored in sport. We discuss the applications of this alternative approach for future research and practice in learning in youth sport.

Why is it important?

It is important to address some of the problems associated with viewing learning in sport only as life-skills learning that is functional, teachable and economically-focused. An alternative perspective is much needed. Here, we consider some of the possibilities offered by using an existential learning approach, which offers a powerful lens for viewing the importance of informal learning via life's difficult, 'dark' and challenging events and experiences.


Professor Jacquelyn Allen-Collinson
University of Lincoln

It has been insightful and illuminating working from our range of disciplinary and theoretical backgrounds to consider the importance of existential learning in sport.

Read Publication


The following have contributed to this page: Professor Jacquelyn Allen-Collinson