A win-win solution in the growing Sport for Development world

June 9, 2016
The use of sport as a tool for positive, meaningful change is not a new concept, although in recent times there has been a substantial surge in the number of initiatives, events and organisations (e.g. Laureus Sport for Good, New York City Sport for Development Collaborative), as well as funding and scholarship produced (e.g. Journal of Sport for Development, UK Economic and Social Research Council).
Lyndsay Hayhurst and Wendy Frisby in European Sport Management Quarterly estimate that ten new organisations are created each month that focus on using Sport for Good, along with an expectation that the field will continue growing.
Correspondingly, there is an increasing number and variety of employment options, as evidenced by the job sites managed by the International Platform on Sport and Development and Up2Us Sports.
Given that approximately 50% of the positions posted are leadership positions requiring degrees in higher education, there is a clear need for formal training and education for those interested in these leadership positions, as well as advancement opportunities for those currently in entry and mid-level positions.
To address this need, formal education and training in Sport for Development was established at Adelphi University in New York through a graduate specialisation in Sport-Based Youth Development. This specialisation is an option for students pursuing their master’s degrees in Sport Management or Physical Education.
Students develop the professional knowledge and skills to design, lead, manage and market programmes and organisations. As part of this programme, students master the concepts of measurement and evaluation, learn to plan and implement fundraising efforts, and write, submit and review successful grant proposals.
While this programme prepares students for leadership positions in the Sport for Development field, therefore addressing one gap, another challenge exists: the rising costs of higher education, making a degree like this inaccessible for many people.
A solution is the Sport-Based Youth Development Fellowship. This fellowship is an innovative approach where students work with Sport for Development organisations in New York City for two years, with these organisations then paying for tuition costs for these students. This fellowship enables students to earn a tuition-free master’s degree in two years, while also gaining valuable experience and connections in the Sport for Development field.
Adelphi University has partnered with local community-based organisations like Play Rugby USA and Wellness in the Schools, a national non-profit that inspires healthy eating and physical activity. These organisations are recruiting new candidates for employment and/or seeking professional development opportunities for current employees, with tuition costs becoming part of the employees’ compensation package or replacing a stipend.
"This fellowship programme is a win-win for both of us. It helps us meet WITS’ goal to encourage public school students to reach the recommended 60 minutes of daily activity, and gives Adelphi fellows valuable hands-on experience in public schools, which can shape their careers."
-          Wendy Siskin, Coach for Kids Director at Wellness in the Schools
Upon graduating, fellows have a unique knowledge base, skill set, and experience level that positions them as future leaders of the growing Sport for Development field, from leading a non-profit organisation to serving as a philanthropy manager in the corporate social responsibility sector.
“Being a Sport-Based Youth Development Fellow has been a great experience. In class, I'm constantly learning new things about how to interact with youth, build a programme, and work in the non-profit world. There are so many different components to working with youth that this fellowship has opened my eyes both within and outside the classroom. It's truly a wonderful experience working with Wellness in the Schools, as I’m seeing the impact one person can have. I’m building relationships with youth that I know will last. The changes the youth are showing lets me know we must be doing something right. I feel honoured to have experienced this as a Sport-Based Youth Development Fellow.”
-          Rachely Soto, Sport-Based Youth Development Fellow and Coach in Wellness in the Schools’ Coach for Kids programme
And there is no longer an expectation that students have access to a certain amount of money or are willing to go into debt in order to pursue their dreams of leading the field of Sport for Development forward. Now the Sport-Based Youth Development Fellowship makes this higher education accessible to all.
Meredith Whitley, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor at Adelphi University and the Coordinator of Sport-Based Youth Development. Her expertise is in sport-based youth development, sport for development and peace, and community engagement, with experience as a scholar-practitioner in the United States, South Africa, Uganda, and Nigeria. Her research explores the complex and multi-faceted role of sport in under-resourced and under-developed regions, including an ongoing investigation that is deconstructing the role sport plays in the lives of disadvantaged youth (with the first article from this ongoing investigation now published in Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health).
Kevin Mercier, Ed.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Exercise Science, Health Studies, Physical Education, and Sport Management Department of the Ruth S. Ammon School of Education at Adelphi University. A former public school health and physical education teacher, his research focuses on children's attitudes and promoting physical activity.

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