The belief that athletic participation teaches desirable educational, social and personal values has been the basis for including physical education classes in schools and having recreation sports as a corrective technique for juvenile delinquents. Numerous studies have shown a direct relationship between sport and juvenile delinquency. Segrave (1983), MacMahon (1990), and Thorlindsson (1989) all claim exercise enhances social skills, academic performance and self-esteem, therefore showing that athletes tend to be less delinquent than non-athletes. Delinquency can be simply stated as behavior which violates the social norms (Eitzen, 1998). Juvenile delinquency includes everything from bullying, stealing and smoking to drug or alcohol abuse as well as more serious offences. Since sport creates behavior that is deemed desirable by Western society, sport can therefore act as an effective and powerful way in preventing and treating juvenile delinquency.
In the mid-nineteenth century, physical activity in the form of sports activities was adopted in the English public schools. They were the first to use sports activities as a deterrent to delinquency and as a mechanism for social control. It acted as a substitute for the stealing, bullying and drinking that seemed to dominate leisure hours of the English schoolboy. All forms of games, athletics and recreation were encouraged for delinquent youths during the early twentieth century, and in 1954, the American Alliance of Health, Physical Education and Recreation passed a resolution stating that sound programs promoting healthy exercise, such as recreation sports, can help lessen delinquency. Sport later became a fundamental component of the school curriculum (Segrave, 1983). .
What led educators of the nineteenth century to believe that sport would deter delinquency? According to Segrave, 1983, the recapitulation theory was proposed by Hall at the turn of the century, therefore providing the evidence needed to integrate playgrounds and physical education as a fight against delinquency.