Panel discussion explores sports as an agent for social change

Photo of a soccer ballAccording to the United Nations Office on Sport for Development and Peace, sport can be used as powerful tool in the advancement of developmental and peace objectives around the world.

Since 2003, the U.N. General Assembly has adopted annual resolutions on sport for the purpose of promoting education, health, development and peace. Because of this global attention, universities and organizations across the United States have harnessed efforts to develop programs that use sport as a mechanism for stimulating simulating social change.

The NIU College of Education’s Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education (KNPE) addressed these issues April 18 in a Graduate Colloquium panel titled, “Sport for Social Change.”

Panelists included researchers and practitioners associated with local, community-based and international sport-for-social-change programs. They described several international sport programs they have led taking place in countries such as India, South Africa, China, Iraq and Japan.

At NIU, using sport for social change has been a recent initiative of the Physical Activity and Life Skills (PALS) Group which was established with the support of the Collaborative on Early Adolescence and is headquartered in KNPE.

In 2013, the PALS Group was awarded a $224,956 grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The three-year, grant-funded the Belizean Youth Sport Coalition (BYSC) project to support youth sport organizations in Belize and to integrate youth development principles into Belizean programs and coaching practices.

Jenn Jacobs
Jenn Jacobs

It was her involvement on the BYSC project that led Jenn Jacobs, PALS assistant director and doctoral candidate in the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations, to propose this panel event to the NIU Graduate Colloquium committee.

“The PALS Group has had the opportunity to develop, implement, and evaluate many sport for social change programs, as well as conduct research and publish articles in this area,” Jacobs said. “As we continue to position ourselves as key contributors to this field, we are fortunate to learn from other successful individuals doing great work in communities both in our backyard and across the world.”

Steve Howell, an assistant professor of sport management who moderated the event, said the panel demonstrates the momentum that KNPE and PALS have established in the area of sport for development and social change. “The panelists were a strong representation of how connecting research and practice can and has become more of an integral part of the academic mission at NIU,” Howell said.

“The colloquium on sport for development and social change represented an opportunity for students to hear a variety of perspectives from experts both in Illinois and across the country on ways that sport can be a catalyst for improving neighborhoods, communities, and even larger societies,” KNPE Chair Chad D. McEvoy said. “Our students were able to truly see the power of sport both locally and globally.”

Participating Panelists

  • Amy Castaneda, co-founder of Beyond the Ball, Chicago
  • Craig Esherick, School of Recreation, Health, and Tourism, George Mason University
  • Jon Welty Peachey, Department of Sport, Recreation, and Tourism University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana
  • Carrie LeCrom, Center for Sport Leadership, Virginia Commonwealth University

The event was co-sponsored by KNPE, PALS and the NIU Graduate Colloquium Committee.

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