As Harmony Day in Australia approaches on March 21st, the central theme for 2012 of ‘sports’ allows a spotlight to be shone on multiculturalism in Australian sport. Even if you don’t live in Australia, there are many useful ideas that you can apply to your home country too.
Recently Jason Mifsud, Michael O’Loughlin and Ali Fahour spoke on the topic of “Inclusive Coaching – Communication and Development of Players from Indigenous and Multicultural Communities” at the AFL National Coaches Conference 2012. During this session they spoke about their own personal experiences, while also giving the audience some important facts and statistics.
The importance of reaching out and embracing all facets of Australian culture was highlighted as statistics show:
Within the context of sport, it is invaluable to create an inclusive environment for all athletes and their families, as a failure to do so could mean your organization or club is missing out on a substantial amount of often untapped talent.
The business world already understands that diversity breeds success. Over the course of a ten year study conducted by Ryerson University, they found “the more organizations embraced elements of diversity in their corporate culture the more prosperous the company became and the happier and loyal its workforce”. Some of the most successful companies analysed through the study were found to utilize “training for managers on inclusive leadership, diversity awareness and being aware of unconscious biases.”
We understand that without a little help, knowledge, and a few ideas, you may be unsure as to how to best foster an inclusive environment.
1. Think about the food
This is a simple tip to implement, and it is often these small details which inhibit social inclusion in sport. Ali Fahour spoke of how being an Australian Muslim, everything from pie nights, after training meals, Ramadan and social nights could be a challenge if they were not taken into consideration. Speak to the members of your team and organization about these issues, and be sure to organize activities that everyone can participate in- including the families of your athletes. By making a genuine attempt to make everyone feel welcome, it will be much easier to foster a socially inclusive environment.
2. Enable friendships to develop
One of the easiest ways to promote an inclusive environment is simply to say hello. Reaching out and making new members and their families feel genuinely welcomed can be an important step along the way to an inclusive environment. Remember – Indigenous and Multicultural is not one group, but many, so “unpacking” this through relationships is imperative. How can you as a coach or sports administrator contribute? By organizing mandatory games nights or fun activities that generate bonding, you can enable friendships to develop within the team and organization. Allowing all athletes and their families to feel comfortable and creating a sense of belonging has an immediate impact.
3. Stand up to inappropriate behavior
This is one of the most important tips to remember. Years of building a socially inclusive environment can be ruined by a single comment or badly handled incident. Sometimes it is the unintentionally offensive comments or slights which can be the most damaging. Ill-chosen humor can be just as destructive, and it is important to stand up and speak out when these comments cross the line. The easiest way to prevent a damaging situation is to be resolute in your stance on discrimination and codes of conduct. Any comment or event which is blatantly offensive or inappropriate must be handled strongly and swiftly. That way there is no doubt that that type of behavior is not tolerated.
4. Reach out to community centres and religious organisations
As mentioned, by 2025, overseas born families will be more common than locally born families. Your club will be no doubt interested fostering greater depth and talent. Reach out to community centres or local religious organizations. By mentioning that you have a sign-on that weekend and that you would love for them to come, helps to develop a socially inclusive community.
5. Invite leaders from different communities to give feedback
Not sure about how successful you efforts are? Inviting local leaders from different communities or the athletes themselves to give feedback can help determine whether you are doing all you can to promote social inclusion in sport. They may be able to enlighten you as to things you may not have realized were culturally insensitive.
6. Educational sessions
Promoting fun educational sessions about other cultures can also be a valuable tool when promoting social inclusion in sport. Speak to a player or a member of the organization about if they would like to teach everyone something about their culture. The activities can be fun and will promote a sense of belonging with everyone at the club.
These are just some of the ways that social inclusion in sport can be nurtured within your team or organization. Remember to cater your effort not only to the athlete themselves, but their families as well. If you are not sure where to start, the Harmony Day website has loads of links to events in your local area as well as special Sports events in your area. These may be well worth checking out and are a positive step in the right direction. Social inclusion in sport is an important part of the Australian culture as around 45% of Australians are either born overseas or have a parent who was. Reaching out to everyone in the Australian Culture is an important way to develop talent within your organization, and like the business world, will bring your team greater success.