The Role of Supervision in Youth Work: Perceptions of Students Preparing to be Youth Workers


  • Heather Olsen University of Northern Iowa
  • Brooke Burk Minnesota State University, Mankato



supervision responsibilities, risk management, supervision in youth work


Working with youth involves mentoring and guiding youth through development of their physical, emotional, intellectual, and social skills, as they become adults. One would assume a great responsibility of working with young people comes with extensive training in one particular field; however, this is not always the case (Barcelona, Hurd, & Bruggeman, 2011). The purpose of this study was to examine the perceptions expressed by undergraduate students preparing for a career in youth work regarding their knowledge and competence of supervision in a park and recreation setting.  It was found in the pre- and post- surveys that future youth workers believe they are confident in supervision. There was statistically significant difference in confidence levels and abilities to take a supervisory role. In addition, students indicated significant growth in their confidence and ability to properly follow risk management procedures. Furthermore, three themes emerged: first, future youth workers welcome the challenge and responsibility of supervision duties; second, risk management is important to future youth workers; and third, future youth workers want to engage in supervision responsibilities and practices. The findings of the study suggest future youth workers may not realize the gravity of their decisions to combat issues of victimization among youth participants or may not fully understand what it looks like to be negligent as it relates to supervision responsibilities.

Author Biographies

Heather Olsen, University of Northern Iowa

Dr. Heather Olsen is an Associate Professor in the Leisure, Youth, and Human Service Division within the College of Education at the University of Northern Iowa. In addition, she serves as the Executive Director of the National Program for Playground Safety.  Dr. Heather Olsen has been with the Leisure, Youth, and Human Service Division since 1999.  Her research interests include leadership, supervision in youth services, playground safety and quality planning, and facility planning and management.  

Brooke Burk, Minnesota State University, Mankato

Assistant Professor, Minnesota State University, Mankato, Department of Recreation, Parks & Leisure Services


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