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 the key role of coaches and sports clubs when it comes to social inclusion:
Social justice education recognizes the discrepancy in opportunities among disadvantaged groups in society. According to Knijnik and Luguetti (2020), education on social justice and critical pedagogy in Physical Education Teacher Education (PETE) enables future teachers and coaches to create a sense of social agency and community purpose in their teaching or coaching.
Training PE and sport professionals is not merely about acquiring new knowledge or resources, but it is above all about encouraging a change in attitudes, beliefs, perceptions, etc. that influence them on a daily basis. The role of the coach is in fact much more complex than it may seem at first sight. In a consensus statement by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) published in 2015, the authors described the coach’s role as an unique mixture of competences and knowledge, combining pedagogical competence with the ability to teach sport-specific skills, knowledge in pediatric physiology as well as the ability to create and maintain relationships with others.
Furthermore, in order to deliver truly useful and transformative training for coaches and educators, it is not just a matter of collecting and describing activities. Instead, it is about challenging PE teachers and coaches to discover, address and change their own personal biases, contradictions and misinformation, as well as to identify and modify educational practices that do not challenge racism and other institutional discrimination or prejudices. Therefore, training PE teachers and sport professionals for social action should be both theoretical and practical. This way, they will acquire the resources they need to adapt their teaching and pedagogical practices to the diversity of students by focusing on cooperative learning.
In practice, coaches in youth sports mostly work within a sports club where they are responsible for the development of young athletes through training and competition. They are the primary persons of contact for athletes within a sports club aiming to cultivate their athletes’ competence, confidence, connection and character. Therefore, it is crucial to keep up the motivation and self-confidence of the athletes in order to yield the desired results.