“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. Sport can awaken hope where there was previously only despair. Sport speaks to people in a language they can understand.” – Nelson Mandela
Sports are one way to bring people together, no matter where they come from, what they look like, or their skill level. Sports allow for a shared experience, promoting camaraderie and connection. If you are a coach, parent, or athlete, you have probably witnessed firsthand the power of sport as a vehicle for the development of individual character, resilience, and work ethic.
Before we jump into how sports promote diversity and inclusivity, let’s first talk about what these two words mean. Diversity and inclusivity have become buzzwords and pillars of American society. Put simply, diversity is any significant or meaningful way that a person can differ from another person. It’s important to keep in mind that there are both visible and invisible sources of diversity. Inclusivity goes along with diversity in the sense that an inclusive environment is one in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, having equal access to opportunities and resources, and contributing fully towards the team’s success. Children who play sports in an inclusive environment develop improved confidence and greater emotional well-being.
For most sports, athletic competition is based on the ability of a team to work together. There are sports where individual participation is the norm, but in most instances, athletic competition centers on teamwork. This is where diversity and inclusion come into play. It’s through the concept of a team that sports provide an insightful perspective on diversity and inclusion.
In order for an athletic team to function at its maximum capability and potential, it is essential that each teammate recognizes the importance of embracing the team’s diversity. Not only do they need to recognize the various roles and positions team members fill, but also the different dimensions of diversity each individual teammate represents. For example, a soccer team cannot function if all the players are goalies. A team composed of only goalies may be great at preventing the opposing team from scoring, but what about the other roles necessary to field a competitive team? Likewise, a team must embrace the fact that each member brings a unique set of experiences, perspectives, and characteristics. In other words, a diverse sports team allows each teammate to bring a unique skillset to the table.
There may be physical, socioeconomic, educational, and other differences among the players – but the concept of a team reinforces the idea that although each player is distinct, they work as one unit. This foundation, that is exemplified through team sports, is part of creating an inclusive environment in any industry.
The importance of diversity in sports can be examined from different perspectives. To begin, participation in sports not only builds self-esteem, but it also creates a sense of connection with others. For organizations like i9 Sports® that promote inclusion in sports, cultures of respect and teamwork are bound to evolve. Diversity is so important in sports because it promotes creativity, unique perspectives, and new opportunities. A common trait we see develop in our athletes as a result of diversity is good sportsmanship.
At i9 Sports®, we encourage athletes to display good sportsmanship by sharing mutual respect for diversity towards their fellow teammates and opponents. We help develop player character by teaching and celebrating good sportsmanship at every practice and game. We believe every child, regardless of their ability, gender, or race, should have an equal opportunity to play youth sports. Coaches at i9 Sports® do not exclude anyone by holding try-outs or drafts, and aspire to give each child equal playing time.