Inclusion and diversity are on trend in Australian sport. There’s been huge advancements across all aspects of sport in recent years. It seems we are beginning to understand the importance and benefits of inclusion and diversity and accepting that sports should reflect the communities they are in.
There’s been a virtual avalanche of programs and resources to promote and support inclusion and diversity - internationally, nationally and locally. It’s terrific to see local sports clubs and associations embrace diversity in such a positive way. You can see some examples of this via our case studies.
Despite all this work, few would argue that we still have work to do. A long way to go. We don’t all have the same kinds of opportunities to take part in sport. Many people face disadvantages that are systemic, cultural and largely, beyond their control.
We all know the important role that coaches play in community sport. If community clubs are to reflect their communities, then coaches need to be front and centre of any participation and diversity strategy.
In late 2017 Play by the Rules, in partnership with Vicsport, Tennis Australia, Special Olympics Australia and AFL Victoria, started the process of identifying the important concepts and practical issues coaches felt were necessary to make their coaching as inclusive as it could be.
A workshop with around 40 coaches and administrators was held at Vicsport headquarters. The outcomes of the workshop provided the basis for developing an online course to be delivered via the Play by the Rules platform. Over the proceeding 18 months there were further rounds of consultations, feedback sessions, editing, building and testing before settling on the content for the Inclusive Coaching online course.
The Inclusive Coaching online course has three objectives. That, at the end of the course coaches will:
One of our challenges in creating this course was how to unpack and articulate difficult concepts. For example, discrimination is a term all coaches would be familiar with. But discrimination is nearly always used in the negative – as something that refers to unfairness and poor practice. Consequently, it has deeper conceptual, and undesirable, meaning for coaches. But discrimination, taken in its literal meaning, is mostly positive, necessary and legal.
We cannot play sport without discriminating and we do it all the time. This may seem obvious but it is important for coaches to understand the difference between fair and unfair discrimination. For example, disputes around selection policy are one of the most common issues that come across the Play by the Rules desk. More often than not these disputes revolve around claims of discrimination in the selection outcome.
These are issues that coaches are embedded in and have to deal with. But, a selection policy is, by default, a discrimination policy – it has to be. Whether it is unfair on the basis of a protected characteristic under the law is a key issue. But determining if a discrimination dispute is on the basis of a protected characteristic, or is a selection decision based on a fair policy, is not always clear cut.
In the course we approach these issues by articulating the concepts as clearly as possible, then presenting scenarios for coaches to work through. These scenarios address the grey areas of unfairness and are designed to challenge coaches to consider what their reaction and thoughts would be. The scenarios are common but not clear cut.
In the course we unpack concepts around the social model, fair and unfair discrimination, protected characteristics and equality v equity. Hopefully, this gives coaches a base understanding of what discrimination, inclusion and diversity is all about.
There’s also modules on understanding the individual and modifying coaching practice. Understanding the individual is important when providing for people from diverse backgrounds and contexts. Simply asking ‘why’ a person wants to receive coaching goes a long way to understanding their circumstances and motivations for turning up in the first place.
In the module on modifying practice we consider the importance of having good observational skills for coaches and we work through a framework to help coaches modify practice to suit individual needs. This module has a particular focus on modifying practice for people with disability. We felt this was necessary and discreet to people with disability. With other areas of inclusion success is largely, if not always entirely, a matter of attitudinal change and awareness. But for people with disability there is often a major practical element involved. Something needs to change in what coaches deliver. The TREE framework presents a simple way coaches can examine what they do and make changes to make inclusion happen.
We will continue to work on developing the Inclusive Coaching online course in the future. Inclusion and diversity is dynamic and we need to keep developing our content to reflect good practice. But, it’s ready to go and fills an important gap in the inclusion and diversity landscape for coaches. And it’s free, certificated and accessible now – check it out on the Inclusive Coaching course page and enrol today.