Evaluation Report

AHA Report Poster


Student Athlete Leadership Team Program Evaluation Report

Athletes Helping Athletes (AHA) offers programs that develop student-athletes’ pro-social behaviors and critical thinking skills.  To accomplish its mission, AHA disseminates a comprehensive sports leadership training curriculum through its Student Athlete Leadership Team Program (SALT) and academic classes.

One hundred seventy-five high school student-athletes from 15 school districts in the New York metropolitan area, attending SALT workshops for at least one year participated in this study to…

(1) examine the effectiveness of SALT leadership training in developing student-athletes’ into persons who value and exhibit expected personal qualities
(2) examine the influence of challenging sport and non-sport situations on student-athletes’ pro-social decisions and behaviors, and
(3) determine protective factors that student-athletes utilize to enhance resiliency and increase resistance to risky, anti-social behaviors.

Participants completed a questionnaire, responding to four challenging situations that high school student-athletes typically encounter, each followed by a series of multiple choice items to assess their identification of the problem; judgment of what ought to be done; intended actions; reasoning for intended actions; protective factors available to assist in their judgments and intended actions; and, the role of SALT leadership training as a protective factor. A summary of the sport leadership program’s influence as a protective factor are given here.

The order in which the student-athletes ranked protective factors from most to least influential was similar across scenarios.  For this study, protective factors are defined as “individuals or groups that enhance resiliency, increase resistance to risk and fortify against the development of a disorder or adverse outcome” (National Center for Children Exposed to Violence, 2003). Parents/guardians were ranked as the primary protective factor for all four scenarios.  That is, parents/guardians have the greatest influence on high school student-athletes’ ability to make moral/pro-social decisions for the dilemmas described in this study.  Teammates/friends and coaches were interchanged as secondary and tertiary protective factors.  SALT leadership training was the fourth-most influential factor – above high school teachers, guidance counselors, principals and the TV/media.
Interestingly, TV/media was ranked as more influential (7th) than high school principals for three out of four of the scenarios.

Perhaps the most indicative results supporting the usefulness and effectiveness of the sport leadership training program were the student-athletes’ overwhelming frequency of responses (more than 50%) for all four scenarios that their involvement in the program reinforces and supports the teachings of their parents/guardians and their personal thoughts and feelings about each scenario.  Also, 6% to 25% of the high school student-athletes indicated that SALT leadership training challenged their personal thoughts and feelings about each situation; and, challenged them to think critically and independently from what their teammates/friends, coaches, and parents would tell them to do in these situations.  These findings are consistent with cognitive-structural theorists (like Kohlberg, 1969, 1976 and Haan, 1977) who assert that cognitive disequilibrium (confusion; challenge) is the primary mechanism driving moral development.  That is, when high school student-athletes are exposed to new, unfamiliar experiences and events to which they have not yet formed or are in the initial stages of forming a moral schema to make decisions and select actions, they are said to be in a state of disequilibrium.  During these moments of disequilibrium (cognitive challenge), student-athletes search for new ways to shape their ideas and beliefs about the current event/dilemma so they can reestablish equilibrium and choose an “appropriate” course of action and reasoning.

Techniques adolescent student-athletes may use during periods of cognitive challenge include reliance on pre-conventional norms (reward and punishment from parents, coaches, other authority figures, and peers), self-reflection, critical analysis, and talking with peers and respected authority figures (like those found in AHA programs).  The findings of this study indicate that the SALT leadership training is an influential protective factor for high school student-athletes, reinforcing the teachings of parents/guardians and providing cognitive challenges to student-athletes’ personal thoughts and feelings and information from teammates/friends, coaches, and parents.

This study was conducted with great assistance and collaboration with Paul Grafer, program coordinator of the Sport Leadership Institute at Adelphi University.

Dawn K. Lewis, Ph.D., Assistant Professor
Department of Kinesiology
California State University, Fresno


Haan, N. (1977).  Coping and defending:  Processes of self-environment organization.  New York, NY:  New York University.

Kohlberg, L. (1969).  Stage and sequence:  The cognitive-developmental approach.  In D.A. Goslin (Ed.), Handbook of socialization theory and research (pp. 347-480).  Chicago, IL:  Rand McNally.

Kohlberg, L. (1976).  Moral stages and moralization:  The cognitive-development approach.  In T. Lickona (Ed.), Moral development and behavior (pp. 31-53).  New York, NY:  Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

National Center for Children Exposed to Violence (NCCEV, 2003).  Glossary of terms.  Retrieved January 13, 2006 from http://www.nccev.org/resources/terms.html