Icehearts –A Sport-Based Life Skills Programme for Adolescent Boys

Icehearts is a preventive social work model developed in Finland in 1996, independent of local government. The core aim of the programme is to provide long-term professional support for boys who, at age six, have been recognised by social workers and kindergarten personnel as being at high risk of marginalisation. The programme is led by a mentor who commits himself to work with the boys for a period 12 years.

The concrete activity in the programme is to train the boys in some team sport, such as ice-hockey, football or floorball (a type of indoor hockey). Each sports team consists of ten at-risk boys and is expanded to include a total of 20-25 boys. The programme proceeds in stages based on the age of the boys.

The mentors are also available for the boys and their families in a wide range of other settings, including home, school, sports training and camps and other leisure time activities. The mentors may talk frequently on the telephone with the parents, teachers and the boys themselves; they will also organise meetings with the parties involved whenever needed. Furthermore, the mentors give special support in the class room and even provide home-schooling when needed.

Currently there are thirty sport teams in action with 503 children. Each team organises annually a sports camp for the children during holiday season. Smaller camps are provided for the children in need of extra support.

A research conducted by National Institute for Health and Welfare indicates that Icehearts-programme does reach the right target group and is helpful for children that are in need of early support. Children participating in the programme were less afraid, they got more friends and they improved their relationship with friends. Also social skills, self-esteem and the mood of children improved while participating the programme.

Read more about the project here (in Finnish)




The project started in 1996 and is still running.
Last review: October 2017.


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