Community sporting programs have been bringing local communities together all over the world for many decades. Sport, by its nature, is competitive but it also is a way for the participants to meet new people in a leisure environment.

Through sport the players get to meet new friends that may have nothing else in common but the fact they enjoy the same sport. It is a wonderful opportunity to share new ideas and to enjoy each other’s company. For celebrity athletes, football players, golfers and sports leaders to get involved in community sports programs is nothing new. However, what is new is the increased professionalization of sporting programs around the world. Sporting leaders and local government see the value of such programs to forge new partnerships and also to present their brand on a wider stage.

University Courses

Because of this heightened focus on the value of sports as a vehicle that can drive social change, many universities now have dedicated courses for the study of community sporting programs. These programs are tailor made to service the unique needs of sport-related companies, local leagues, athlete foundations, and professional sporting clubs. The emphasis of the courses is on the nonprofit aspect of community sporting programs together with corporate responsibility to the community to utilize sport as a tool for doing good. The courses also highlight the social and health benefits of playing community-based sports.

Sports Philanthropy Summits

There is a rapid growth in sports philanthropy summits and events all over the world that bring together the top sports brains to activate and nurture social change through sport. One good example of this is the Doha GOALS Forum, which brought together public and private sports organizations, athletes and also business entrepreneurs to exchange ideas on how sports can be utilized to a larger extent on policy agenda. There were three main topics for debate: the power of sport to create bridges in divisions in society, sport as a reason for social inclusion, and sport as a catalyst for change and the transfer of information. All these themes highlighted the importance of sport in our communities and the true value of sporting programs within the community.

Sport and Entertainment Philanthropy Summit

Another top example of the sporting community coming together to make sporting programs to have as much impact as possible was the Sports and Entertainment Philanthropy Summit, which is organized by Marc Pollick. Many key-note speakers came from world industry organizations to discuss many topics, one of which was how crowd-funding can aid such programs in terms of finance. Another topic was the inclusion of celebrities in programs to raise public awareness of such community sporting programs.

One such celebrity is Joey Cheek the famous Olympic Speed Skater. Joey Cheek has helped to Co-found Team Darfur which is a truly global organization. The aim of Team Darfur is to bring together a group of international athletes to raise awareness of humanitarian problems around the world.

An example of their work was to bring China’s attention to their economic involvement in Darfur and put political pressure on the Chinese government by highlighting this issue in the run up to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. In part two of this blog we delve deeper into how community sporting programs are benefiting society all over the world.