In recent years sport-based interventions have been implemented as a mechanism via which to target marginalised youth in relation to the development of social inclusion. Much of the political rhetoric surrounding social inclusion programmes highlights engagement with education, employment, or training, as key metrics. This has led some scholars to observe that conceptualising social inclusion in this way can act to further marginalise young people who fail to engage with these metrics. In contrast, this paper seeks to employ an alternative understanding of social inclusion, which uses the concepts of recognition and acceptance, to infer how participation in sports-based programmes may enable marginalised youth to meet mainstream societal expectations and aid with social assimilation. Drawing upon findings from two small-scale studies of sport-based interventions located in three UK cities, this paper places participant accounts at the centre of the analysis to explore broader notions of pro-social development in relation to recognition and interpersonal acceptance. The paper concludes by suggesting that within contexts in which young people are able to generate strong interpersonal relationships with key personnel (such as coaches), and which are built upon trust, recognition and developing self-worth, there is clear potential for sport-based programmes to incubate social assimilation.