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Evidence in the Field of Sport and Development: An overview

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In spite of the popularity of sports, there is not a lot of scientific evidence supporting the relationship between sport and development. There is a natural reluctance to use sport for some other purpose as one interviewee illustrates (Sport England, 2003):

At the end of the day we are a competitive swimming club. We are not a community or social group. We are not here to look after [the disadvantaged], although we will help where we can, we are not in a position to arrange transport; we are not in a position to reduce their fees. We will train people that want to train, but we cannot be used as a social service organisation.

In addition to the mental barrier that prevents evaluation of the impact of sport, there is a serious methodological challenge: in many instances it is almost impossible to isolate specific sport effects from non-sporting ones. For instance, a simple correlation between physical activity and smoking does not explain the causality. It could be that people stop smoking because of their level of sporting activity (causality) or that heavy smokers simply avoid sport (reverse causality). In fact it is also possible that a third factor (e.g. risk-taking behavior) explains the relationship (spurious correlation).

More and more governmental and funding institutions are driven by accountability and have to prove the impact in order to continue funding. With this policy shift was a shift from the rhetorical question “is sport good or bad?” to the more pragmatic question of “what are the preconditions that sport needs to deploy positive outcomes?” and “how do programs have to be designed to be effective?”

Sport can have an impact on development in different ways. First, the traditional focus of sports development can be enlarged by clearly defined development goals, arguing that the promotion of sport has a direct effect on raising self-esteem, increasing resilience, building character, and teaching team building among participants (“sport plus”). Second, there is an increasing number of development organizations that use sport as a vehicle through which messages are communicated (plus sport). Although in reality there is a continuum between both poles, there are differences in evaluating the outcomes. Third, the popularity of sport can be used as a platform to promote a development cause (sport as a platform for development). In this manner professional athletes can make a contribution by raising awareness and sensitizing people on critical issues such as racism (e.g. stand up – speak up campaign), homophobia, HIV/AIDS, and many more. All three of these approaches are contained within the “Sport and Development” movement.



 editors comments   

Editor's comments - [  Man is a homo ludens – a playing being. Sport and play are part of humanity. It was not only the Ancient Greeks (as 19th century historian Burkhardt assumed) but other ancient cultures too that had a propensity to practice sport and compete with others. Sport does not need a raison d’être; it is part of human nature, and with it comes both positive and negative connotations. In the 18th century sport became very popular among the elite. Hunting was a symbol of manhood, and heavy drinking was a serious problem; which is why women were often more successful marksmen than the men. In the 19th century sport was integrated into elite schools in England (Eton, Cambridge) as a means of personality development. To strengthen specific elements of existing sports, new ones were purposefully and rapidly invented.

Colonialism brought modern sport to the most remote areas of the world. For the first time, sport was intentionally used to contribute to the development of societies. Where many other imported ideas of colonialism failed, sport prevailed as one of the most successful inventions. Argentina and Brazil, not England, now lead the football world ranking charts. In cricket, the founding countries find stiff competition against the likes of Samoa and Sri Lanka.  ]  Reference this?Cryer, J. (Year). This page title in italics. Retrieved date, from <this page's full URL>

In the text: Cryer (year)


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Reference : Schwery Consulting. (2008). Evidence in the Field of Sport and Development: An overview. Biel/Bienne: Schwery Consulting


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Download this file (Evidence.pdf)Evidence.pdfSchwery Consulting. (2008). Evidence in the Field of Sport and Development: An overview. Biel/Bienne: Schwery Consulting
Last Updated on Sunday, 15 November 2009 15:30  

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