Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Diane Halpern

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© 2013 Nicole Franklin


This thesis explores the relationship between sports, academics, and youth development, in 5th- 9th grade boys and girls from low-income families. This exploration includes an analysis of a non-profit organization called “Rainier Athletes.” This program underwrites the cost of organized sports for low-income children with the belief that sports help empower students so that they make positive choices inside the classroom and in the future. Rainier Athletes uses a token economy design in the classroom where students earn points by fulfilling academic expectations and displaying positive behavior.

Researchers concluded that sports participation had a beneficial effect on academic achievement in middle school and junior high school. Implementing sports at an early age is beneficial because middle childhood is viewed as an essential developmental and transitional period for children and experiences at this time impact children’s behavior during adolescence. The literature also suggested that the benefits of sports participation may be most important for children from low-income families because organized sports provide structure and help reduce risk factors associated with living in poverty. Based on the research, Rainier Athletes demonstrates the potential to foster the development of at-risk students by helping the students gain useful skills and display positive social behaviors. The program utilizes an effective design and has built a foundation to benefit youth development.