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Youth is a period of significant biological, cognitive, and psychosocial change. Opportunities for psychosocial development are crucial for enabling personal growth, positive youth development, moral development, autonomy, and connectedness (Cotton Bronk, 2011). Inclusive and universally applicable education places youths on a positive trajectory. Creating youths who become agents of change will benefit humankind and the planet.

There is a lack of explicit evidence-based PYD programs for South African youths. Highlighting the need for investigations, particularly for underserved and hard-to-engage populations. Many schools in South Africa are without basic amenities and facilities, further limiting the capabilities of South African people. Interventions are needed to improve wellbeing and facilitate opportunities for personal growth and PYD using available resources and working within existing structures (Page & Coetzee, 2019). PYD programs integrated into schools and universities provide access and increase the likelihood of participant comfort and peer acceptance (Mokomane et al., 2017; Page & Coetzee, 2019).


Positive youth development (PYD) is an asset-building approach to research and practice that emphasizes enhancing strengths and promoting optimal health and well-being (Freire, Lima, Teixeira, Araújo, & Machado, 2018; Lerner, 2017). PYD interventions focus on developing internal assets, personal competencies, and life skills (both physical and social) that can be transferred to other areas of life (Nicholas L Holt, Pankow, & Jørgensen, 2020; Santos, Carvalho, & Goncalves, 2018). PYD is an emerging field that broadly pertains to the engagement in constructive behaviours and the development of prosocial skills (Lerner et al., 2011). Appropriate PYD programs that are safe, supportive, and accessible – enable the provision of crucial knowledge and psychological skills, as well as mitigate negative effects of poverty and disability.


We implement evidence-based interventions developed by research institutes and universities. The LifeMatters program developed at the University of Queensland over the past decade has been implemented successfully all over the world. It has most recently been adapted and sensitised to the South African context by PYDF director Daniel Page. LifeMatters is a sport psychology intervention program involving psychological skills and mental skills taught through physical activity. LifeMatters is largely based on cognitive behavioural theory, focused on enhancing self-regulatory skills and improving psychological well-being of youths (Hanrahan, 2011). The program has shown statistically significant improvements on a host of psychological measures: life satisfaction, self-worth, happiness, self-concept, resilience, competence, confidence, connection, relatedness, personal growth.

The program runs over 10-sessions, each session has a duration of two hours. Physically active games were used in all sessions to develop communication, problem-solving skills, teamwork, and trust. The specific psychological skills incorporated in the program include: activation control, attention and concentration, goal-setting, imagery, self-talk, and self-confidence. The LifeMatters program incorporates these elements in a synergistic manner to reap the benefits in a short period of time. Throughout the course of the program, learning activities and games were interwoven to optimise learning and enjoyment, furthermore, activities were introduced in a sequence that required increasing levels of trust, empathy, and problem-solving. Group activities and discussions gave participants an opportunity to apply their own material, to work together, and to learn from their peers. The end of each session included a thought for the day, a life lesson/quote which facilitators would discuss with participants. Participants were provided a folder to keep after program completion, containing all handouts and written activities.