Global Sport-based Education

Malawi Refugee Camp

Sport for Development is a method of bringing about social change through the use of sports. In the U.S. this is commonly referred to as Sports-Based Youth Development. Sport refers to the physical activity and development is any individual, health, social, and economic benefits. Sport is used as a tool for peace and development. The programs use sport to help children learn lifelong skills and as an incentive for the children to improve their scholarship. Sport is used as a tool to reach personal and community goals. Most organizations utilizing this method are geared towards underprivileged children and teenagers in urban areas.

Malawi Coaches discuss PLUS

Around the globe

In India, The Magic Bus, a sport-based youth development program, takes“ children and young people on a journey from a childhood of abject poverty and challenges such as child marriage and child labor, to a fulfilling life with a respectable livelihood.” In South Africa, Women Win, a global sport-based organization for women’s rights, educates adolescent girls on sexual and reproductive health and gender and economic balance through sports. In Somalia, Jeff Asoro employs soccer as a medium to teach courtesy to children who have witnessed decades of violence and bloodshed in their communities. Waves for Change utilize surfing to deter boys from entering violent gangs in South Africa. On the island of Cyprus, the Olympic Doves Movement and PLUS employ sports as a platform to heal the injustices of decades of hurt between the Greek and Turkish families. The Skills Center serves as the educational model for a large study of the impact of sports on the socio-emotional lives of 600 middle school girls in Tampa Bay, Florida.

What do the children need to learn?

These organizations and others understand that for many youth school is not the best platform for to reach children. These innovative sport-based programs are designed with a specific goal of teaching children something they need in their life. For children in war-ravaged areas of the world the goal maybe developing skills to stay safe. In rural parts of Africa, the goal maybe to teach women how to heal from gender related violence. This approach to education is no different than teaching math to third graders or geometry to high school students. The idea behind sport-based education is sport is used as platform to develop targeted skills that the children need to survive.

Sports as a platform

The goals may vary from country to country but the idea of using sports as a platform for development is the common thread. Coaches and counselors are trained in how to use natural teachable moments to advance positive development. The children’s passion for sports is the draw. Sports are the platform. The key for all programs is the design is intentional. Simply rolling out the ball and expecting something magical will occur and children will somehow learn to persist in the face of difficulties is wishful thinking. Up to now the common saying has been “Sports build character.” This saying fuels many a debate with one side stating that sports are bad and teach violence and cheating and the other side saying that sports are good and teach important skills such as teamwork. Sports-based education is a comprehensive effort to position sports as a natural and potentially powerful platform to reach and teach children around the world.

Basic principles of sport-based education

The children’s passion for sports is the draw. Sport is the platform. The key for all programs is intentionality. Simply rolling out the ball and expecting something magical will occur and children will somehow learn to persist in the face of difficulties is wishful thinking. What makes this new movement compelling is that so many children around the world love to play sports. Passion and fun attract the children to programs. Participation and intrinsic motivation are key to hope and development.

Targeted whole-child goals

Sport-based education (SBE) is using sports intentionally to teach and develop targeted cognitive, social, psychological, moral, and physical outcome goals. Sport-based education involves the synthesis of relevant research and sports. Sports-based education is a comprehensive effort to position sports as a natural and potentially powerful platform to reach and teach all children. Sport, in and of itself, is neither good nor bad. Like any other activity such as boys and girl’s scouts, school, and religion for that matter, the outcome depends on the intention of the program, how the activity is structured, and the quality of the instructors. The key for all programs is intentionality. Simply rolling out the ball and expecting something magical will occur and children will somehow learn to persist in the face of difficulties is wishful thinking. What makes this new movement compelling is that so many children around the world love to play sports. Passion and fun attract the children to programs. Participation and intrinsic motivation are key to hope and development.

Five essential components of sport-based education

1. Philosophy: What is important?

The philosophy of our program defines why we are doing what we are doing and what we want to accomplish. In this sense, our program’s philosophy drives all of our decisions and serves as a template as we think about issues ranging from distribution of playing time to how we address social and moral issues as a team and provide opportunities for learning. Character is defined as the development of the social and emotional skills necessary to make good decisions.

2. Psychology: How is what’s important caught?

How do you know your students are learning? We need to be cognizant of how children learn in general, and, specifically, how children learn important program goals such as teamwork and responsibility. Sport-based education employs the common theories of how people learn including the Social Learning Theory, The Behavioral Learning Theory and the Cognitive Development Learning Theory.

3. Pedagogy: How is what’s important taught?

How we “teach and coach” can be understood as our pedagogy. If one of our goals is to teach teamwork, for example, it is important to explore the best ways to teach the concept of working together. Our team’s pedagogy takes into account our team’s philosophy and psychology as well as our program’s outcome goals. PLUS employs a daily rhythm that consists of a Warm-up followed by an Activity concluded with a Cool-down. This consistent structure provides the youth leaders with continuous opportunities to gather the team, reflect on the process and set new goals. The Cycle is where group dialogue takes place. Viewed in this way, the Cycle allows the team and coach to transition from one activity to another. Most importantly, the Cycle allows the coach to be a respectful teacher.

4. Programs: What are your learning activities?

Basically, all of the activities that we design including practices, team meetings, team orientations, readings and rituals make up what we call our Program. The cooking class, academic classroom and exercise in the parks are programs that deliver the PLUS model. The program activities are the places in which the learning takes place. It is important to expand our vision of what it means to play on our team. Sports can be much more than practices and games. The “coach as teacher” understands that within the program or season there are many ways to bring the team together and provide opportunities for learning.

5. Progress: How do we know our children are learning what’s important?

Valid sport-based programs seek to prove their validity. The new science of sport-based learning provides tools for coaches and teachers to define their program’s outcome goals (i.e., teamwork, respect, responsibility), and design pre- and post-tests to determine how successful their program was in promoting those goals. It is one thing to state, “sports are good for everyone” and quite another to announce teamwork as a desired outcome goal and have the ability to demonstrate how well the program did to

Definable, observable and measurable

To make values come to life and have meaning for children, goals must be made observable, measurable, and understandable. This is also true in terms of being able to measure these goals. Words like teamwork, responsibility, and respect are simply too abstract for children to understand (adults too, but for different reasons!). They need to be defined and reinforced through observable behaviors. Asking players to bring their equipment to practice is an example of teamwork, it presents a concrete behavior that can be observed and understood. “If you don`t bring your equipment, you won`t be able to practice the drills with the rest of the team and you won`t be ready for the contribute to the team.” Here is a behavior that can be understood by the children; pointed out and reinforced by the coach and in the end measured.

The following long-term goals are key to creating a holistic and replicable sport-based education program.

Educational medium

Educational medium understands that sports possess the unique social and educational components to promote collaboration and engage in dialogue and conflict resolution. Children learn best when involved with activities and people they enjoy.


Inclusion includes children who may be marginalized for reasons of gender, religion, ability, ethnicity, disability or social background.


Transferability is based on the fact that lessons learned about critical thinking and problem solving from sports are transferable to other areas of a child’s life including home and school.

Strengthen local self-reliance

The goal is to be regionally inspired, locally supported, and with sustainability and replication as the long-term goals and seeks to strengthen the capacities of local organizations and promote community self-reliance through sustainable strategies.


Integration seeks to connect and utilize all aspects of community including classrooms, sports, boarding in the educational process.


Sustainability builds the community’s capacity to take full ownership of the program following the active project implementation. The ultimate goal is to hand over the program to the community


Promote programs around the world to replicate the principles of the program in their respective schools.

The children’s passion for sports is the draw. Sport is the platform. The key for all programs is intentionality. Sport-based education (SBE) is using sports intentionally to teach and develop targeted cognitive, social, psychological, moral, and physical outcome goals. Sport-based education involves the synthesis of relevant research and sports.

1. Utilize children’s intrinsic passion for sport

2. Teach out of the challenges arise naturally when children engage in sports

3. Create intentional outcome goals

4. Train coaches teachers on how to educate for outcome goals

5. Employ multiple sport-related mediums to teach such as project-based activities, film, art, and literature.

6. Integrate philosophy, psychology, pedagogy in creating intentional curriculum and programs for the purpose of targeted education outcomes.

7. Understand that character and social skills are both taught and caught

8. Outcome goals can be identified, monitored, and measured


The following are a representative of some of the stronger sport-based education programs around the world. The information is taken from Wikipedia and individual websites

Sport and Development

The Sport and Development organization and website provides system view of how sports can be a tool for the development and peace. Sport and Development believes in a future where sport is seen as an essential tool in international development and its effectiveness is further enhanced by the cooperation of actors divided by geography but united by shared values.
Sport and Development goals are to increase the visibility of sport’s development potential among the target groups, contribute to improving sport and development practice and encourage dialogue, promote partnership building and facilitate strategic alliances

Magic Bus India Foundation

Magic Bus India Foundation is an organization that works with 300,000 children and 8,000 volunteers using a sport for development curriculum the organization has developed over 15 years of working in India’s slums and villages. The program begins when a child is 7 years old, follows their journey through childhood and aims to create confident young people, ready for jobs or higher education opportunities. The organization fosters young adults who they call Community Youth Leaders to deliver the program and to become role models and mentors for the children. Both the young adults and children come from the same communities, so that a close and constant relationship is built. The young adults are trained to deliver the activity-based curricula we have pioneered, to bring about changes in behaviors and practices. They work to promote gender equality, access to education and health services, as well as developing a child’s social and emotional skills. Their other key role is to work with the child’s support structure: the parents, the community at large and local institutions to ensure the change we make results in social, emotional and economic well-being.
The curriculum has a grounding in academic research and is based on classical learning theories. Sporting activities and games are structured into each session to make them fun and appealing to children. Sessions are designed to represent real-life situations and challenges so children are able to relate daily lives.

Positive Learning Using Sports PLUS

Positive Learning Using Sports (PLUS) is the leader in sport-based education and training. PLUS is an international global organization that gives educational training to communities and programs through sports and promoting positive human development and social change. Since 1984, Sports PLUS has reached over five thousand children and trained two thousand coaches and educators in camps and after-school programs throughout the United States, Cyprus, Canada, and Hong Kong.Their PLUS model has five essential steps that communities can use. The steps develop respectful relationships and an understanding of how children learn in groups.

The youth players who adopt Champions In Life are amazing! When youth, both young men (60%) and young women (40%), joined Eden Academy, the PEACE CLUB “incubator” program in Amman, Jordan, they joined knowing the primary goal of Eden Academy is the emphasis on virtues, as well as learning basic football skills. Virtues training transformed their lives. It provided the building blocks through which the players’ character and the character of the team developed. Virtues training changes the way the player’s play, the way they explore teamwork, and the way they see opportunities ahead. Their character is seen during the game while playing football, but is also seen in how the players behave in their families, in their schools, and in their communities. The youth themselves are proof that training in virtues actually works.

Right to Play is an international organization that has programs in a variety of countries around the world, including Botswana, Pakistan, Thailand, and Peru.[20] The organization was founded in 1992 and has since created a global network of support and commitment to underprivileged children by Olympic athletes and charitable organizations such as UNICEF. Raising funds, advocating for play base learning, and building awareness is some of the things the national offices do for Right To Play. The goal for Right To Play is to teach kids in need through educational games.
Rugby League Against Violence (RLAV) is an organization that operates in both Australia and Papua New Guinea, using rugby league as a vehicle for development. It aims to change attitudes towards women and promote respectful relationships as a way of reducing levels of family, gender-based and domestic violence in both nations.

The unbridled joy on the faces of a few street children kicking a broken bucket around a slushy ground in an impromptu game of football, blissfully unaware of the pelting rain in the midst of a sudden rainstorm, prompted the founding of our organization; Slum Soccer. The beautiful game is a unique and yet, a perfect vehicle that transcends race, religion, language and gender to bring about a change in the lives of street dwellers. To equip the underprivileged to deal with and emerge from the disadvantages riding on the back of their homelessness, we use the medium of football. Unconventional as it may seem, development through sport has a track record of being successful, across continents and from our own experience.

India, the second most populous nation in the world, has a population of well over a billion people. 170 million of these people live on the streets with no place to call home and account for 17% of the world’s entire slum dwelling population. 260 million people in India, earn less than $1 a day (Source — UN Habitat). A sizeable portion of these 170 million people are women and children; and they are denied even the most basic rights of survival and protection.

The Indian government has been able to do precious little in terms of developing a comprehensive policy to tackle the problem of homelessness and indeed even official census figures are lamentably off the mark. The net result is that living on the streets renders the homeless especially vulnerable to victimization, exploitation, and violation of their civil and economic rights.

Slum Soccer was registered as a Non Governmental Public Charitable Trust Organization governed by the Public Trust Act of the state of Maharashtra in 2001 under a board of directors. The organization is subject to periodic financial audit by law. We function with the ultimate aim of reaching out to the Indian homeless using football as a tool for social improvement and empowerment.

Women Win

Women Win is the global leader in girls’ empowerment through sport. They leverage the power of play to help girls build leadership and become better equipped to exercise their rights. Sport is only the tool; the end game is helping girls thrive as they face the most pressing issues of adolescence, including accessing sexual and reproductive health and rights, addressing gender-based violence and achieving economic empowerment. Since 2007, Women Win has impacted the lives of over 1.24 million adolescent girls in over 100 countries. This has been made possible by collaborations with a wide variety of grassroots women’s organisations, corporates, development organizations, sport bodies and government agencies. Their work is strategically positioned at the intersection of development, sport and women’s rights.

Girls in the Game understands that not all playing fields are equal, hence our vision is for a world where all girls are empowered to be game changers. Events unfolding throughout this country have many in our community in pain and concerned for each other. We ache when we see racism and injustice, acknowledging the pain our communities are experiencing, especially young girls of color who face systemic racist realities that their white peers do not. Girls in the Game, its people and its programming stands firm against that which seeks to destroy equity, inclusion and access.

Our mission to enable every girl to find her voice, discover her strength, and lead with confidence is amplified and as critical as ever. Empowering these voices to speak up is a step towards generational change and a step towards creating a level playing field. Our commitment to a diverse, inclusive and just society is an active one, embedded in 25 years of programming that now seeks to improve through a greater commitment to active listening, a resolute commitment to those diverse voices that help to inform it and to stand up for those who need us.

Waves of Hope

Waves for Hope offers a surf therapy program for at-risk youths in the rural communities of Trinidad. Our mission is to improve the physical, emotional and mental well-being of young people. We provide a safe space, caring mentors, the fun activity of surfing and evidence-based exercises to build healthy relationships, develop coping skills and improve confidence and self-esteem. Our goal is to encourage positive life choices and create role models in under-served communities in Trinidad & Tobago.

Laureus Sport for Good Foundation

This global organization supports projects through funding, educational training, as well as research and evaluation tools. They also connect their projects from around the world to encourage collaboration. Laureus Sport for Good was founded in 2000, inspired be Nelson Mandela’s infamous speech at the first Laureus World Sports Awards in 2000, in which he declared that “Sport has the power to change the world.” Through its projects, the Foundation uses sport as the means to tackle problems such as HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, crime, social exclusion, landmines awareness, violence, discrimination and health problems such as obesity. Laureus currently supports over 150 projects in around 40 countries. Laureus has national foundations in the United States, Argentina, South Africa, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, and the Netherlands. Their website states they have raised “over €100 million since 2000”. The Foundation has the support of over 180 Laureus Ambassadors and 60 Laureus World Sport Academy Members.

Indiability Foundation

The Indiability Foundation is dedicated to improving the lives of youth and people with physical disabilities in India. IMAGE (Indian Mixed Ability Group Events), a sport for development and social change program, which works towards the social inclusion of disabled people into mainstream Indian society, was set up in 2005. After beginning life as after-schools sports clubs, allowing disabled and non-disabled students to interact and promote mutual understanding, the project has developed into a community outreach program. IMAGE was able to maximize its social impact by combining learning objectives with sports sessions in the conservative rural areas of Rajasthan where disabled people are most severely ostracised. IMAGE trains groups of young people with disabilities and their non-disabled counterparts, to drive the program. These young people are responsible for delivering sports and games specially designed to carry valuable information such as why education is important, improving sanitation, and explaining how diseases including polio and cholera are spread through open defecation.

The project breaks down barriers between disabled and non-disabled communities through group activities, instills confidence, and allows disabled youth to nurture their inclusion into mainstream society. Subsequently, discriminatory mindsets on disability are challenged as IMAGE members start getting accepted as well-educated, productive, and responsible role models in the isolated communities where the project operates. Furthermore, the participants develop skill sets through their work experience with IMAGE, which they can include on their CVs — a concept that they’re made aware of through the IMAGE Employability Workshops.

Coaches Across Continents
Coaches Across Continents is a global leader in the sport for social impact movement. They partner with local organizations to implement their award-winning ‘Hat-Trick Initiative’ based on their Chance to Choice philosophy and Self-Directed Learning Methodology that focuses on local social issues such as: female empowerment including gender equity; conflict prevention including social inclusion; health and wellness including HIV behavior change, other life skills and FUN. In 2016 4,817 coaches participated in CAC training and received Sport for Social Impact certifications. In addition, nearly 1.5 Million children were directly impacted through our 1,698 community partners. In 2016 Coaches Across Continents worked with 90 communities in 28 countries, developing local community leaders on sport for development skills to positively impact and educate their youth. Sports

The vision of the Rural Sports Foundation is to contribute to positive social and economic change among children and adolescents in rural communities.

The mission is to work with adolescents and the communities using sport at the grass root level, without discrimination, in order to improve the lives of children. To achieve their mission, they sponsor activities in alignment with three of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.

Goal 1. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Goal 2. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Goal 3. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Dr. Jeffrey Beedy Founder of Positive Learning Using Sports

“In 1988 when Jeff Beedy was completing his research investigating the influence of sport on child development at Harvard University, youth sport was reaching new heights of popularity, with unprecedented participation and never before seen expenditures. Jeff’s groundbreaking research was welcomed into a relatively new field, which despite its popularity, was marked by a dearth of social science research on the actual developmental influence of the youth sport experience.”
Matt Davidson Forward to Jeff Beedy’s Sport and the Developing Child

Jeff Beedy has been a pioneer in using sports to teach lessons beyond the playground. In Positive Learning Using Sports, he has put together an amazing resource to help coaches become effective teachers of life as well as their sports. It is an invaluable resource for school leaders who want their sports programs to be the equal of their academic programs in having a lifetime impact on their students.
Jim Thompson, Founder and Executive Director Positive Coaching Alliance

Jeff created the PLUS model. I have often turned to his now classic book, Sports PLUS, for ideas and inspiration. It is used as a basic reference by sport psychologists and youth sport leaders throughout the world including China, South Korea, Africa, Cyprus, and throughout the United States.
Brenda Light Bredemeier, PHD Pioneer in Sports and development

​Dr. Beedy is a leader in the field of child development. At Harvard, he studied with psychologists Lawrence Kohlberg and Pulitzer Prize winner Dr. Robert Coles

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