Engage and empower a diverse sporting community
The benefits of engaging the whole community in sports clubs go beyond skin deep. The young people benefit, the club as a whole, and the rest of the community does as well. Go far with your successes, and these positive actions reach further into the UK and even the rest of the globe.
Take a moment to reflect on these questions:
- Is the make-up of your club, association or governing body representative of the real heart of the community it sits within? The real UK, full of a rich tapestry of ethnic minorities, cultures, religions, economic backgrounds, genders and sexuality?
- Do you do everything in your power to proactively ensure you are reaching your whole community, even if it means thinking differently to your usual recruitment and retention strategies?
- Can you put your hand on your heart and say that every team member feels comfortable, equal and heard?
It’s ok if you answered ‘no’ to any of those questions. Honestly. Awareness is the first step towards any kind of development we do as individuals and as societies. Putting your hand up and saying ‘We try our best to welcome everyone but can’t say that we know everything… Happy to take some advice’ is stronger than ploughing on aimlessly, hoping that what you do is fair and yielding the best results.
The good news is, you don’t have to figure it out by yourself and it doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg. Creating Connections: Engaging with Diverse Communities is a new online course launching in January 2022, and for a small price you could transform your club into a sporting community that celebrates diversity. And when you overcome barriers as a unit, it’s a win win for everyone. More kids (often those more cut off from society and with less opportunities) with warm places to hang out and take part in physical activity. Not to mention community cohesiveness and endorphins galore, and a chance to all learn something from each other.
Leave exclusion at the front door
According to a Sport Management Review report, one of the reasons change is slow in coming in diversifying sports clubs, is resistance from club leaders. But not all leaders fall into this trap. One of the case studies explored on the course is Calzaghe Mini Dragons boxing club in Wales. Founders, Roy Oyston and Joseph Jr Calzaghe, know the wide-reaching impact of bringing all different kinds of people together. “The value of coming together and working together is absolutely key and fundamental to how we move forward”. This goes for not only the individual athletes or the club, but as a society as whole. They feel their club – as well as boxing as a whole – demonstrates good inclusivity, which in turn breeds further kindness, respect and empathy in all walks of life, no matter the background.
Roy and Joe foster a real sense of belonging at their club, so that everyone feels included. There is no place for stereotypes, prejudices, biases, discrimination (even positive discrimination), lack of cultural awareness, abuse or bullying at Calzaghe Mini Dragons. They feel that one of the barriers for people of diverse backgrounds entering sports clubs is not knowing what’s on offer and where to go, especially if new into the community. Working to bring new people in and cultivating aspiration in young people by highlighting diverse role models (both locally and worldwide) from all backgrounds and ethnicities is key. After all, when stories like the racist abuse of the Euros or the discrimination faced by cricket player Azeem Rafiq sit lurking in the corner of young people’s minds, we need to convince them more than ever that getting into sport – and feeling at home – is well worth the effort.
How you can engage diverse communities in your sport
We’re proud to have teamed up with a range of sportspeople, clubs and organisations on this Accelerate Sport course, Creating Connections: Engaging with Diverse Communities. Written by Kojo Hazel – BAME advocate superstar and co-founder of Tribal Basketball (with members ranging in age from 2 to 102; you don’t get more inclusive than that!) – this course will leave you feeling empowered to recruit effectively from your local community and ensure that no-one feels left behind.
You’ll hear direct experiences of barriers faced by certain communities and learn how to level the playing field, increasing social integration and mobility both on and off the pitch, track, ring, court… in whatever your sport. We’ll show you how to prepare an action plan for improvement, so you can take real steps in the right direction from the word ‘Go’. You’ll do this by getting to understand the needs of coaches, players, parents, and other key members of diverse communities, as after all, every good team has all of these people behind them.
Written by Alice Gunn