66OLYMPIC REVIEWOLYMPIC RESEARCH CORNERbeing used in development work in one city alone(Lusaka, capital of Zambia). These very different figures simply reflect thedifferent focus of each research study. While theNorth American researchers concentrated onprogrammes that could be classed as 'sport indevelopment' initiatives, the African team werefocusing on activity that was less visible. Much of thesport they recorded was being provided independentlyof any of the better-known formal agencies; in fact,often those running the sports activities were notspecialist sport organisations at all. Instead, they werelocal groups or institutions, such as schools, whichwere working in their communities on issues such asyouth development and had chosen to use sportbecause it was an effective method of reaching theirtarget group. The existence of this less formal andoften undocumented sports-based development workmeans that the increase and spread of sport indevelopment contexts is even greater than manyofficial estimates show.THE CONTRIBUTION OF SPORT TOINTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENTGOALS Locally based grassroots work is harder to identify andmeasure than more formalised and visible programmesin which major organisations such as UNICEF and theIOC tend to be involved. The fact that large numbers oflocal projects exist is a good illustration of just howwidespread the appeal of sport has become. In manyways, identifying the scale of this grassroots activity isan exciting development: it shows that sport is provingits worth because it is an effective way of working withgroups in need, especially young people. Projects rangefrom those that simply use sport to engage youngpeople and offer them some enjoyable activity, to thosewhich have wider social goals, such as increasingeducational attendance and attainment; providinghealth education generally and HIV/AIDS education inparticular; and fostering empowerment, especiallyamong young women. Sports programmes can therefore have ambitiousaims. Ultimately, many are seeking social change,hoping to improve the life-chances of poorer and less-educated groups in the community by providing themwith the knowledge to make informed choices aboutkey aspects of their lives. It is through strategies suchas this that sport has the potential to contribute to theMillennium Development Goals, in areas such asfemale empowerment, access to education and betterhealth. But these are complicated challenges forsports programmes, and they raise importantquestions for researchers. The most fundamental are- how should we research sport in internationaldevelopment contexts? And how much does researchtell us about whether sport actually works?RESEARCHING SPORT'S IMPACT There have always been difficulties in researching thesocial outcomes of sport. The problem is partlymethodological: it is difficult to define concepts suchas 'empowerment' and 'social cohesion' and decidehow they are to be 'measured'. It is also partly aquestion of resources, which are usually too limited tofund the in-depth study that is needed to fullyunderstand the complicated processes by which sportmay contribute to social change. Funding levelsrestrict the time that researchers can spend in-country, giving them limited exposure to the culturalcontext within which sport in development initiativesoperate, and little opportunity to develop research toolswhich are culturally appropriate. As a result, manystudies are project-specific, use quantitative tools andfocus mainly on immediate behavioural impacts. Mostdo not address wider contextual influences, or thelonger-term impacts of sport, and have limitedexplanatory power. RESEARCH FINDINGS ON HOWSPORT CONTRIBUTES TOINTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENTIncreasingly researchers have tried to developmethods which give them a better account of thecontext within which sports development programmesoperate, so that they can understand the impact thatparticipation has on the individuals who take part, andon the social relations they have with others. Therehas been more focus on qualitative approaches,including discussions groups and in-depth interviews,and more effort to involve participants in researchprocesses. This approach still faces problems, as it isdifficult to verify individual accounts, and there arealso often language constraints on the work that canbe done. Nonetheless, studies carried out over thelast five years have consistently identified some keybenefits that sport provides, and offered insight intohow these benefits occur. The five that stand out are: Sport has special qualities for engaging youngpeople Sport can be attractive and enjoyable forexperienced and inexperienced participants alike.Team sports in particular can help develop a range ofpersonal and social skills in an experiential waythrough enjoyable activity.Sport can be very effective in promoting and/ordelivering educationSport can contribute to improvedlevels of education indirectly, as an incentive to attractyoung people to school, or directly, when educationalcontent is delivered through sports activity. Youngpeople's experiences of being physically active in sportcan be particularly relevant in improving theirunderstanding of health, and sports activities can alsoRight and below rightTeamskills developedduring sport canassist thepersonal andacademicprogress ofyoungsters
be adapted to deliver specific educational messages,as in a number of HIV-AIDS education games. Sport can play an important role in establishingrelationships with adultsThe informal nature of sportcan produce open and democratic relationshipsbetween young people and the adults who work withthem, making it easier for young people to ask for theinformation they need to protect and manage their lives.Young people also give more credibility to what theylearn from teachers with whom they had established aclose relationship through sport, than to formalclassroom where teachers are more authoritarian. Sport has an extended 'reach'Sport can reach someyoung people 'on the margins' who do not respond tomainstream provision and institutions, and can beespecially - but not only - successful in engagingyoung men. Research in Zambia and Brazil has shownthat young people who do not pay attention to HIV/AIDSeducation in a school setting, do however engagethrough sport. Sport can also 'reach' beyond those whoparticipate directly themselves: for example, youngwomen participating in an empowerment programme inDelhi shared their new educational knowledge withfriends, mothers and other family members. Positive experiences from sport can transfer to othercontextsLearning that occurs through sport cantransfer - for example, experience of mastering sportskills can lead to higher self-belief and confidencelevels and improved communication skills, which canhelp young people assert themselves in educational,family and community settings. Sport, especially teamsports, also builds decision-making skills that are of useat home and in school; developing relationship skillsincluding encouraging collective action; and buildingdiscipline and self control which transfer as a life skill.Research into sport's contribution to internationaldevelopment is still evolving. By giving fuller attention tohow individuals' experiences of sport are affected bytheir wider social, cultural, economic and politicalcontexts, researchers are building greater understandingof the potential long-term impacts of sport. ?OLYMPIC REVIEW67Dr. Tess Kay is Professor of Sport andSocial Sciences at Brunel University,London, UK. She has researchedwidely in youth sport, with particularfocuses on diversity and inclusion,international development, and sport,family and talent development.