Centre of Expertise Health Innovation

The social value of community sports coaches

Many cities and neighbourhoods employ community sports coaches: professionals whose overarching goal is to increase participation of residents in local sports. The municipality of The Hague has asked the Impact of Sport research group to map the social value of community sports coaches. The research report was presented to the municipality at the end of September 2021.

Community sports coaches in The Hague focus on vulnerable neighbourhoods where residents face barriers in practising organised sports. These barriers can vary from neighbourhood to neighbourhood: finances and health often play a role, but a lack of social ties in a neighbourhood or the absence of sports clubs in the area also have an impact. Community sports coaches approach local residents from a social angle with accessible activities, often using a combination of a social activity such as meeting for a coffee and exercising together.

The use of community sports coaches

Previous research has suggested that the use of community sports coaches can contribute to all kinds of social changes, such as greater social cohesion in a neighbourhood. The municipality of The Hague values a broad understanding of the results of a community sports coach to make an informed decision about the use of community sports coaches and projects that promote the participation in sports.

Research design

The research consisted of a literature review of examples of social change through the use of community sports coaches. The study also included interviews with community sports coaches and local residents who participated in activities. The key question in the interviews centred around the social changes achieved by the community sports coaches.

Conclusions

The study indicates the following:

  • It's difficult to get residents from vulnerable neighbourhoods to join sports clubs, even with the help of a community sports coach.
  • The activities of the community sports coaches prove to be valuable: they promote contact between neighbourhood residents and encourage exercise.
  • The use of community sports coaches fosters social changes on an individual level.

An important unexpected finding is the trust relationship that many community sports coaches have with local residents. Because of this trust relationship, community sports coaches are able to support local residents in solving problems that prevent their long-term participation in sports.

Recommendations

The researchers advocate that the temporary availability of community sports coaches, intended as a stepping stone to participating in organised sports, is made permanent. This will enable local residents to continue to exercise together, without joining a sports club. There should also be a greater focus on the training and quality requirements for community sports coaches.

Elective module 'Special target groups of community sports coaches'.

The research report was one of the reasons for the development of the elective module 'Special target groups of community sports coaches', which will start in February 2022.  This refresher course is intended for students and community sports coaches who work (or will work) with special target groups. In six meetings, they learn about the wishes and needs of special target groups and how to address these with their sports and exercise programmes. Target groups that will be addressed are zero to six year olds, people with dementia and people with a migrant background. For more information, please read the flyer Keuzemodule Bijzondere doelgroepen van de buurtsportcoach  (pdf, in Dutch).

Research report

Liset Schrijvers and Frank van Eekeren presented the research report to city councillor Bredemeijer (education, sports and outdoors) in the autumn of 2021.

  • Download the research report Buurtsportcoaches in The Hague (pdf, in Dutch).

    Want to know more?

  • Watch the vodcast of researcher Liset Schrijvers and professor Frank van Eekeren about the research on community sports coaches Impact of Sportcast (length: 17 min, Dutch), which includes a short contribution of the Hague community sports coach Casy El Bouhnani.

Contact

Liset Schrijvers (researcher) l.b.j.schrijvers@hhs.nl