Are the needs of a sports curriculum for sport for development (SFD) projects unique?
Global Nomad’s World (GNW) is developing a sports curriculum for 150 000 underprivileged girls in India aged 6 - 15 years old. This incredible project, supported and managed by the NGO, The Naandi Foundation, will be the first introduction to sport for these girls. I have been involved in building sports programs for numerous groups in Europe, in both competitive arenas and grassroots sports. In addition, I have worked in international education, and developed sports curriculums for elementary and upper school children. But, before beginning on this new sports journey, the question I must understand is whether building a sports curriculum for these girls is different from these other projects; is this curriculum unique?
When embarking on any such project, it is critical to identify the objectives of the curriculum before you start your planning. Even at this elementary step of project planning, there are already differences with a SFD curriculum and other ones. In most projects I have worked on, the main objectives focus specifically on the sport competencies, conceptualisations and character you are looking to build through your curriculum. Although these objectives are critical, one must equally keep in mind these very important parameters:
the cultural setting
the needs of your participants
the logistical reality
What is the cultural setting of the program?
There are countless examples of when the cultural setting impacted the sport activity I organise in India. Once, I was in Visakhapatnam about to lead a group of 30 underprivileged girls through their first day ever of organised sports. After a wonderfully warm welcome by the group, I started to explain the first warm up activity, called “popcorn tag.” The objective of which is to assign all girls as both taggers and targets at the same time in order to get the girls running and moving in one big manic group. Following dozens of head toggling affirmations, I brought the girls to the playing area to start the activity.
Both on our way to the playing area and once we arrived, the girls were in a line. Even after the explanations and trying to draw images in the sand of the activity, the girls were still reluctant to break the mould. But, after much encouragement and demonstrations, the girls finally released and spread out through the playing area.
I explained that I will join and I blew the whistle to start. All at once, I had 30 girls charging towards me and tagging me! Even though the activity is designed to be self led and inclusive for all, the girls identified me as the teacher and central actor in the activity. I was more warmed up and out of breath than the girls following this first fun game!
These stories help demonstrate, the important cultural backgrounds of these girls. Introducing a curriculum that includes more non-linear formations and encourages self led activities will challenge these cultural traditions. I strongly feel like both these elements are extremely valuable in the sport development of children. The excitement and enthusiasm shown by the girls suggests they are very much up for the challenge but it is important as a curriculum planner to understand these cultural traditions and that it will take time to introduce these new elements; time both for the sport leaders and for the participant to understand.
What are the specific needs of these girls?
In my recent posts “Why girls play sports: Are girls motivated differently in various parts of the world? “ I looked closer into the motivation to play sports for the girls involved in the Naandi Sports program and suggest that there is a need for much more detailed statistical analyses to clearly understand the motivations of these girls to play sports. However the experience in this program suggests that that these girls are very different from girls living in Europe. It suggests that the girls in the Naandi program are looking for the following elements: strength, confidence, safety, and fun. Thus, the curriculum should help feed these interests.
What are the logistical challenges?
When trying to reach such a large group of participants, logistics becomes quite a challenge; especially in terms of activity area, instructors and equipment. The majority of the Naandi sports programs takes place in school activity areas. These areas vary greatly from one school to another and oftentimes is simply an open area with little to no grass. At times, there may be a basketball area, a small dirt track, or a volleyball area but this varies greatly, so it is a challenge to plan for such activities consistently. One must be creative to plan fun activities that require little infrastructure.
Not only is it financially challenging to purchase equipment but it also challenging to find safe storage for these items. For instance, for our football unit, to provide 1 football for every 10 girls, it would costs thousands of dollars. Finding a safe storage space for these items on site is a real challenge also as indoor areas are in high demand. So, it is important to use minimal equipment that also take up little storage space.
Finally, there is the challenge of creating a curriculum that can be delivered through a wonderful army of female community activists. These are the ladies who know the Naandi girls so well, they know their families and the school administrators; have built the trust of the whole community. How does one make a curriculum that is both effective and are facilitated by women who are new to sports also? How does one effectively communicate the curriculum to these ladies?
Global curriculum commonalities
But there are also commonalities in curriculum that can undoubtedly benefit children all over the world. I strongly believe the main goal of any sports curriculum is to help encourage children to be active for the rest of their lives. This will only happen if they enjoy the sporting activities they are participating in. Similarly to any curriculum, regardless of the subject, children learn differently and engage differently. So it is critical to have a diversification of sporting activities that offer many different roles to different children. We must constantly work to disparage the idea that you are either an athlete or you are not. Sports must be for all and thus must offer something for all.
In summary, before beginning a sport for development curriculum it is so important to understand the cultural setting, the needs of your participants and the logistical reality. But, it is so important to understand that these needs and objectives can greatly differ for each SFD project and much more research is needed to understand these differences.
If you would like to hear more about the Naandi Sports curriculum or would like to share your experience of developing a SFD curriculum, we would like to hear from you. (firstname.lastname@example.org) #GNW