One of the objectives of the project Future for Children ++ is to develop a European-based coach education programme for youth sport. In order to do that, our team explored the necessary key components, providing an overview regarding the problem at hand, defining the term “inclusion” as well as barriers to organized sports, which low-SES families tend to face regularly.
In this article, we identify some of the problems regarding social inclusion through sport:
The White Paper on Sport developed by the European Commission in 2007 (European Commission, 2007) promotes the development of measures to improve social inclusion through sport, by using European Union‘s programs and resources. In this context, political bodies recognize the potential of sport as a tool to foster social inclusion.
Despite the potential of sport and physical activity (PA) to contribute to the process of social inclusion, several theoretical approaches and empirical studies indicate that sport and inclusion do not happen spontaneously. Although it can improve individuals’ living conditions and reduce vulnerability levels, it cannot solve structural problems that generate inequality, nor the basic needs of vulnerable groups. Moreover, social inclusion through sport in the context of social vulnerability is not a mechanical process. Sport and PA aimed at groups at risk of social exclusion is without doubt a powerful tool for social inclusion, but as with any other activity, it has its limits and its effects depend on how it is used.
Therefore, the role of sport coaches is key to promote social inclusion. In this context, sport coaches need some guidance and support when working with children from marginalized and underprivileged groups. Several studies show that there is a lack of training of sport coaches and PE teachers to address the needs and interests of different underprivileged groups, such as women, immigrants, people of low socioeconomic status, refugees, or inmates.