The therapeutic benefits of sport in the rehabilitation of young sexual offenders: A qualitative evaluation of the Fight with Insight programme

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Abuse of children is a concerning issue in South Africa, particularly the percentage of sexual offences committed by children and youth. Fight with Insight (FWI), which forms part of a 12-week diversion programme, combines boxing and cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), and is intended for child and youth sexual offenders. The aim of this evaluation was to qualitatively evaluate the FWI programme. The evaluation was intended to achieve the following outcomes: 1) a description of FWI (including outcomes and mechanisms); 2) understanding of perceptions of FWI's effectiveness; and 3) insight into factors influencing programme effectiveness.


A case-study approach was used to conduct this qualitative evaluation.


Focus groups were conducted with FWI participants (n = 17), parents of FWI participants (n = 7), and a comparison group of youth offenders who had only participated in CBT sessions (n = 10). Key informants interviews were conducted with programme staff (n = 6).


The main outcome was identified as a reduction in recidivism, along with other intra- and inter-personal outcomes. Participants were generally positive about FWI and it's effectiveness, and these views were reinforced by key informant and parents' perceptions. FWI (compared to comparison) participants tended to be more specific about changes and learning they experienced as a result of the programme. A conceptual model highlights that it is the interplay between the boxing and the themes addressed within the CBT that contributes to FWI's effectiveness.


This study has provided insight into FWI's outcomes and mechanisms, factors influencing its effectiveness, and the kind of change that it helps to bring about in its participants.


▸ Sport can be combined with appropriate therapeutic techniques. ▸ Sport can address relevant psychosocial issues for young sexual offenders. ▸ Contact sports, with appropriate guidance, can be cathartic for participants. ▸ Male sports coaches can play a paternal role for young sports participants.

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