Building a Better World Through Sports: The Role of Sports Governing Bodies in Promoting Inclusion Through Sports.
Ian Wright, the Badminton World Federation’s Director of Development, in conversation with Imran Nadaph, Certified Executive and Life Coach, and Program Manager: High-Performance Sports at ELMS Sports Foundation.
Excerpts from the conversation:
Sport at its very root is about participation; it's about bringing people together to play. Yet, access to participation in sports remains unequally divided, especially for certain socially disadvantaged groups. As the governing body responsible for the promotion and development of one of the most popular sports in the world, what steps are being taken by BWF to bridge this gap?
BWF’s mission statement is “Giving every child a chance to play for life”. Therefore, our development strategy and philosophy has been designed to reflect this objective. We invest heavily in participation projects around the world using resources we have developed for the purpose, such as Shuttle Time (a BWF school-level project), Coach Education and AirBadminton (a programme designed to provide a positive experience/introduction to badminton in an outdoor environment--particularly effective in regions where indoor facilities are limited). We work closely with our Continental Confederations to ensure that their regional programmes reflect our objectives and that allocated funds are used efficiently to deliver appropriate support and activities to member associations.
BWF launched its flagship program “Shuttle Time” in 2012 to promote badminton at the grassroots level. Since then, this unique program is now being implemented in 137 countries. Tell us more about this program and how it is impacting the health and well-being of school children?
The programme has been extremely well utilised by our members globally. It is safe to say that millions of children globally have been introduced to badminton through the programme. Some of the key features of the programme which have directly influenced its development are:
● Translation of the resources into key languages, we now have 22 language versions freely available through the BWF website and the Shuttle Time App.
● All resources are free to access for any interested party.
● The development of local workforces through the training of national physical education (PE) teachers. (At present, 52,000+ globally).
● Equipment support for countries and regions where this is an issue.
We have also invested in a variety of science research projects to establish the health and social benefits of badminton and more specifically, the ST programme itself. This has assisted in promoting the programme at the national governmental level in countries interested in implementing the programme.
In many developing countries, a majority of the children can’t go to school at all and therefore miss out on not only quality education but also access to quality sports and physical activity. How does Shuttle Time engage such children? Are community programs part of the endeavour to ensure children out of school can also benefit from such programs?
Since the inception of the programme, we have partnered with a variety of NGOs to assist in delivering a positive sporting experience to children in difficult social, economic and political situations. We have provided training, equipment and funding for many of these programmes, for example, in Colombia, Timor Leste, and Haiti, alongside a number of refugee camps in the Middle East, namely, in Lebanon and Jordan. In the refugee situations, we not only provide equipment and a safe environment for sport, but we also train appropriate adult refugees to be able to deliver the programme and therefore obtain a small financial benefit from the work. We ensure in all these situations that the sessions provided are inclusive in terms of gender and physical/intellectual disabilities.
What are some of the bright spots? Can you share any examples of how BWF initiatives have helped individuals benefit from sports?
Through the various BWF development projects we have many positive examples of the opportunities which have been created for youth around the world. One example would be Uriel Canjura from El Salvador, who was discovered through our Pan American development programme at the age of 10. From a small jungle village, Uriel found the opportunity to travel and compete internationally through badminton, which eventually, in 2018, led to him being selected as the flag bearer for the El Salvador team at the Youth Olympic Games Opening Ceremony.
We have many such stories where our programmes have allowed talented children from less developed regions to be identified and given the opportunity to compete internationally, which in turn inspires many other children from similar backgrounds.
What are some of the major learnings from this program in terms of sustaining participation, creating a pipeline of coaches and support staff, building infrastructure, involving the local community, etc?
Since the inception of the Shuttle Time programme, we have been on a steep learning curve in terms of implementation and sustainability of the programme. We work with some of the poorest countries in the world where there are many challenges to sustain and grow the programme. However, to date, we have been able to maintain projects in each of the 137 countries which have implemented the programme. Local partnerships with key stakeholders are obviously a critical factor, alongside the training of local workforce and the identification of motivated local coordinators. Again, I would stress the translation of resources is a key factor, alongside the user-friendly nature of the resources themselves. This allows teachers with a limited knowledge of badminton to deliver a fun, safe and positive experience of our sport to the children, which in turn means the children are motivated to continue to play the sport.
What is the responsibility of national sports federations and associations in scaling up such initiatives and how does BWF support its member associations in achieving this?
We work closely with our Continental Confederations to ensure our individual members obtain the support required to maintain the programmes. The overall objective is that they become self-sufficient within a 3-year period, and usually this is achieved by creating strong partnerships with key local stakeholders. Therefore, it is important the programmes are able to demonstrate their success and growth during this initial period of higher level support.
Finally, when it comes to challenges in inclusion, money is always an important factor. Participation in any sport is expensive. Registration fees, equipment, competitions fees, travel costs, etc. can all add up and make sport programs inaccessible to many. How does BWF ensure that money/access to funds does not stand in the way of those eager to continue playing the sport.
BWF is an International Olympic Federation which is fully committed to the principle of making badminton accessible to all on a global scale. In recent years, the growth of badminton has in turn increased its commercial value. This increase in commercial income has allowed us to make substantial investment in the development of our sport, and the support of our less developed members. Our long-term objective is to make badminton truly a global sport for all, a sport which gives “every child a chance to play for life”.