From high-level Policy making to grass-roots empowerment and making a difference:
The PsyTool Closing Conference Bridges the World of Sport Policy and Practice at Stamford Bridge
The multi-agency Erasmus+ co-founded project using sport psychology as a strategic tool for the promotion of safe and fair sport held its closing conference ‘Can sport help the creation of positive social values?’ at Chelsea FC’s Stamford Bridge ground on 28th November 2017.
Representatives of the world of sport policy and practice came together at the very unique Chelsea’s home ground in London to explore the outputs of this Erasmus+ co-funded project and debate the role of sport in the development of a more respectful and cohesive society in 21st century Europe. The conference was hosted by PsyTool UK-based partners FARE Network, the International Centre for Sport Security Insight (ICSS INSIGHT) and the International Council for Coaching Excellence (ICCE).
The programme contained a broad range of activities aimed at showcasing the achievements of the project, including:
- The development of an online platform and educational course based on sport psychology practices that trained over 200 local Agents of Change in 7 different countries aimed at promoting positive experiences and outcomes for young athletes.
- The results of two pilot interventions with Sevilla FC and Sporting Clube de Portugal with hundreds of young football players
- The creation of a virtual European network of ‘Agents of Change’ to promote positive personal development amongst youth using sport psychology as a tool to promote integrity and tackle violence, discrimination, intolerance and un-sportsmanship.
It also provided ample opportunity for debate in the form of three discussion panels. The first panel, moderated by Diogo Guia of ICSS INSIGHT, dealt with the issue of how sport can make a contribution to cultural integration in Europe. The line-up boasted the presence of a variety of sport policy heavy hitters including the Rt. Hon. Richard Caborn, former UK Sports Minister, Ramunas Linartas, Policy Officer for the Sport Unit of the European Commission and Patrick Gasser from UEFA, Senior Manager of UEFA’s Football and Social Responsibility. The panel also included Jon Carazo, Spanish international rowing start who provided the athlete’s perspective. The outcome of this panel can be summarised in the words of Richard Caborn: “Sport has the wealth and influential power to change society. Politicians have to be more accountable and sports more responsible to ensure this power is maximised”
The second panel of the day revolved around the role of grassroots sport in producing social change and social development. Moderated by FARE’s Executive Director Piara Powar, the panel included Louise Englefield from Pride Sport, Luca Ugolotti from Rugby Colorno and Jack Reynold from Football Beyond Borders. Louise, Luca and Jack offered their own experience of running socially-based sport programmes and discussed the pros and cons of the approach. In conclusion, the panel agreed that sport has to be realistic about how much it can achieve, and the role other social actors have to play in this complex picture, yet strongly advocated for the prime role sport can play as a development agent in society
The final panel went all the way down to the ‘roots’ of grassroots to discuss the experiences of the newly PsyTool trained Agents of Change in going through the programme and trying to deliver change on the ground. Moderated by Sergio Lara-Bercial from ICCE, it brought together Paulo Martins from the University of Lisbon (Portugal), Lisa Elk from Sandarna Football Club (Sweden), Guillermo López from Universidad Pablo de Olavide (Spain)and Ayisat Yusuf from Monaliku Football Club (Finland). The Agents of Change discussed the benefits of the programme and its impact on the players they coached. Lisa Ek summarised it when she said: “Before I took the course I thought I was doing a pretty good job with my leadership for my teams but everything I did was just based on feeling, I did what I felt was the right way. Now I know how to take on situations and I got the structure and the research to lean on when I’m in doubt. I’m truly super happy I got to do the course and I feel honoured to have become an Agent of Change.”
Over the course of the last two years, PsyTool has raised awareness to the broad array of issues threatening grassroots sport, as well as confirmed the positive impact that sport psychology-based interventions can have in supporting a sea-change at organisational, individual and operational level. We owe it to the millions of children and young people taking part in grassroots sport to put in place the relevant measures to guarantee that sport continues to be a positive and developmental experience.
The conference concluded with a set of recommendations delivered by PsyTool project leader José Carlos Jaenes from Pablo de Olavide University that any organisation involved in the administration and/or delivery of grassroots sport should:
- Develop an appropriate and extensive Code of Ethics to inform their day to day activities.
- Widely communicate the Code of Ethics with all its stakeholders and instruct and provide them with the tools to enforce it.
- Create a task-force of Agents of Change to promote and monitor the application of good practices in their area of influence.
- Actively collaborate with similar organisations at local, regional and national level to multiply the effect of their good practices
In addition, from an educational perspective, PsyTool recommends that all organisations involved in the education of grassroots sport stakeholders (i.e., national governing bodies of sport, regional, national and international sport federations, colleges and universities, non-governmental organisations, etc) should:
- Actively promote the principles of safe and fair grassroots sport throughout their stakeholder networks.
- Include topics and resources similar to those developed by PsyTool in all their education courses.
- Lead the collection of best practice examples to inform and guide future practice and development
Finally, in relation to the sustainability and enhancement of the achievements of PsyTool, it is recommended that:
- A European Network of Agents of Change for Grassroots Sport be officially founded and launched to promote safe and fair practices and support the education of further Agents of Changes across the European Union.
- A ‘PsyTool Certified’ scheme is piloted to enhance the ability of sports clubs and organisations to safeguard children and young people in sport and to use sport psychology principles to foster positive practices.
- Individuals and organisations which excel in this area be recognised and rewarded as exemplars of best practice. This should include the creation of ‘PsyTool Honorary Annual Award’
- Further research be conducted to understand how the type of stakeholder education and training promoted by PsyTool contributes to safe and fair grassroots sport
- New and innovative projects dealing with the promotion of safe and fair grassroots sport are developed and appropriately resourced.
PsyTool is a co-funded by the Erasmus+ programme of the European Commission. It is led by Universidad Pablo de Olavide (Spain) and comprises of a consortium of 12 other organisations: Autonomous University of Barcelona (Spain); University of Balearic Islands (Spain); University of León (Spain); Halmstad University (Sweden); La Sapienza University of Rome (Italy); International Council for Coaching Excellence (UK); University of Lisbon (Portugal); International Centre for Sport Security (ICCS Europe; UK); Fare network (UK); Sevilla Football Club Foundation (Spain); Sporting Clube de Portugal (Portugal); Sport Foundation (Portugal); International Centre for Sport Security Insight (ICSS INSIGHT) / Save the Dream; Spanish Federation of Sport Psychology (Spain; associated partner)
PsyTool has allowed a group of stakeholders from different sport backgrounds to collaborate in the establishment of a successful network to take full advantage from the implementation of Sport Psychology as a strategic tool to safeguard the integrity of grassroots sport, to promote positive and fair experiences for children and young people and to allow sport to contribute to the EU strategic objectives of solidarity and prosperity
For more details please visit www.psytoolsport.eu/the-project/ or follow us on twitter at @PsyTool
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