Breaking down barriers to make sport accessible

Last updated: 13 Oct 2023 Topics: Safeguarding children

Discrimination has no place in sport. We want all children and young people taking part in sport or physical activity to have a safe, positive, and fulfilling experience in their sporting life.

Sport has this amazing ability to break down all forms of discrimination and if delivered in an inclusive way, it can create a space were everyone thrives and feels welcomed. To make this happen we have to be intentional about inclusion and provide a safer culture to enable us to meet Sport England’s Uniting the Movement objections.

In this blog, CPSU Senior Consultant, Liza reflects on her sporting experience as a child growing up within a minoritised community in a single parent family with limited finances. Liza discusses her own intersectionality and highlights how we could make sport more child centred to consider other additional factors or barriers that some young people face to play their chosen sport or activity.

Reflecting on my experiences

Looking back on my life, I can see the significance of the famous 2000, Nelson Mandela, quote:

"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. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination."

If you ever hear me deliver training I will talk about this quote, because sport spoke to me as a child, it gave me hope and aspirations to get out of poverty, out of my despair.

I grew up in Toxteth, Liverpool in the 1980’s when there was growing racial tension and significant hardships for working class. What I later learnt in university while studying sociology is referred to as the ‘underclass’.

I was one of those children growing up in an ‘underclass’ household, with a single mum struggling to bring up 3 children. But as a child I didn’t realise the significance of growing up poor or being mixed race, as everyone else around me in my community was poor or were also from a minoritised community.

It only became mildly apparent of our lack of financial status, when I went to a middle class all girls school and then when I started playing sports at a county level. Now, I reflect and consider contextual safeguarding and my intersectionality and how at the time, the adults did not consider these things during my sporting opportunities.

I know safeguarding and equality, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) has considerably changed over the past number of years, but I wanted to write this blog to enable adults who are motivated to help create, as Mandela said, 'hope where there was once despair’ for children by taking into account holistically their individual needs.

Safeguarding considerations

I am not saying people need to be social work experts but consider how children are getting to your training sessions, is it safe?

Do you have children who attend your sessions who are like a young me? …mixed raced, female, taking 2 buses, taking over an hour to a part of the city that is unfamiliar, which has a reputation for being a racist area and then having to change buses in the city centre at 10pm.

Is the child in front of you able to afford a new kit every season? What about the practice and games fees, are they affordable? If you have away competitions, like county finals, for the whole weekend, does it include staying in an expensive hotel, making this out of reach or putting families under pressures to find additional money on top of the already over stretched family budget?

Regardless of a person’s social graces, if we are providing a child centred or athlete centred approach to sport, we should consider how we promote the welfare and create a thriving environment for young people.

Related information

  • How can sport safeguard children? – our animation shows the difference between child protection and safeguarding in a sports setting, how young people can be further protected and contextual safeguarding.
  • Intersectionality in social work practice - NSPCC Learning podcast explores intersectionality and its application within safeguarding practice, with guests Jahnine Davis and Nick Marsh from Listen Up.
  • A guide to cultural consciousness - Reflective practice guidance and awareness to support professionals in the context of safeguarding
    children, families and communities in Salford