Sports for everyone: promoting a more inclusive society
Sports for everyone: promoting a more inclusive society
Kids want to move around, go wild and have fun – whether they live with a disability or not. Local sports programs usually provide many options but they are not ideal for everyone. Sometimes there is a lack of accessibility at sports facilities, while some sports clubs often also lack experience in accommodating people with disabilities. Meanwhile, the way children connect with each other is not an issue whatsoever. The project titled "SPORTundBILDUNGinklusiv – mittendrin statt außen vor! Eine Sport- und Bildungsinitiative zur Inklusion!" (English: Inclusive sports and education - being in the thick of it versus on the outside! A sports and education initiative for inclusion!) has tried to set up a network in the City and district of Rostock, Germany, to promote social inclusion through sports.
Torsten Hardtstock was project manager during the three years and has recently been a speaker for sports and inclusion at the VBRS M-V.
Project manager Torsten Hardtstock revealed to REHACARE.com what the project was able to accomplish during its three-year duration, explained where there is still potential and defined what society can still learn in terms of inclusion through sports.
Mr. Hardtstock, what was the content of the "SPORTundBILDUNGinklusiv" project?
Torsten Hardtstock: The project objective was to build a local network (in the City and district of Rostock) of sports clubs, disability organizations, scientific facilities, various educational institutions, medical supply stores, insurance providers, public authorities and business partners.
The project’s motto "Inclusion in and through sports" was echoed throughout all areas of the project, starting with the project team, project officers and consultants all the way to the event participants. During the project, people of different ages and gender, people with and without disabilities and different backgrounds (social status, educational background, nationality) came together. Experts from the fields of education and science, politics, economy, disability, and sports associations as well as sports clubs are active in the network. This project reflected the diversity in our society. It initiated interactions between people in the test region and thus promoted social inclusion.
During the course of the project, the following aspects indicated that this network is a success: it fostered mutual support in the implementation of sporting events and campaigns, it opened doors to other network partners, was instrumental in finding contact persons, encouraged joint problem solving (development of accessible sports facilities, acceptance of athletes with disabilities into the sports academy) and nurtured professional exchanges and consultation with committees.
It should generally be noted that three years is a very short amount of time to build a stable network. The project was unsuccessful in creating authoritative structures pertaining to sustainable inclusion in and through sports for Mecklenburg-Vorpommern during this time period.
Is inclusion easier to implement in early childhood versus adulthood?
Hardtstock: The project was ostensibly aimed at all specialists in school and organized sports, educators, and multipliers but was certainly also geared towards children, adolescents and adults who are interested in sports. We also sensed that children tend to be more open and approach each other without prejudice. We believe that joint participation in sporting activities right from the start is a great approach towards an inclusive society.
What would you like to see more of in sports in the future as it relates to inclusion?
Hardtstock: I want inclusion in sports to become the norm and for every athlete to be able to find his/her sports options in close proximity. Popular sports events should generally be organized and implemented to include EVERYONE.
The visit of 72 sports festivals, action days and school project days was on the agenda. In addition, training events were held with a total of 270 participants in order to anchor the topic of inclusion in Rostock's sports professionals on a sustainable basis.
Which project measures could generally be carried over into society?
Hardtstock: Inclusion can be successful, it just takes some courage and commitment. Initial reservations, which are usually the result of uncertainty and a lack of knowledge can only be dissolved in direct encounters and an open approach towards each other in the community. To do this, we need people, who are really excited about this issue and talk about their experiences and (athletic) life.
The course of the project shows that you have been very active over the past years. But is there something you would have liked to implement but couldn’t?
Hardtstock: I am actually interested in pressing ahead on the process we started. We still have to create more awareness in sports clubs and sports associations. I believe it’s important for inclusion efforts to include the corresponding reliable financial, staffing and structural changes. This is the only way to turn inclusion into a sustainable success.
The project ran three years and concluded in September. What’s next for inclusion in Rostock and its surrounding areas?
Hardtstock: The project will not be continued in the same way. The three key aspects of the project are now assumed by the Association for Disability and Rehabilitation Sport Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, VBRS M-V. Our “scouts“ are dedicated to the ever-increasing need for student project days. Continuing education courses on inclusion will be continued via the VBRS M-V e.V. in collaboration with other sports associations and educational institutions. The network will still be maintained. In addition, the Hanseatic City of Rostock will also be one of five nationwide model regions of the "Kommune inklusiv" project (English: An inclusive community) organized by the Aktion Mensch society. In the next five years, this will allow us to consolidate the experiences we gathered in the various projects and initiatives that promote inclusion in the city and thus get one step closer to creating a livable city for EVERYONE.