Soccer for social change

The Soccer for Social Change programs train native physical education teachers and youth soccer coaches to use the mastery approach to coaching and a peaceful living skills curriculum to help youth develop into productive, peaceful citizens in developing countries experiencing conflict.

By Lindsey Blom, EdD

For the past decade, Lindsey Blom, EdD, associate professor of sport & exercise psychology at Ball State University (BSU), CC-AASP, has investigated positive youth development through sport and using sport to promote peace at the individual, community and international levels. Her recent projects, funded by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ SportsUnited program, involve the development, implementation and evaluation of the use of a life-skills curriculum to help youth in Jordan and Tajikistan develop leadership and peaceful living skills through the game of soccer.

In conjunction with the Indiana Soccer Association, the BSU Center for Peace and Conflict Studies and in-country partners, the Soccer for Social Change programs consist of training native physical education teachers and youth soccer coaches to use the mastery approach to coaching and a peaceful living skills curriculum to help youth develop into productive, peaceful citizens in these developing countries in conflict-related areas. Workshops are conducted in-country for both coaches and youth, as well as through a 14-18-day exchange training in the U.S. for 10 coaches. Training in the U.S. includes meetings with the U.S. soccer, National Collegiate Athletic Association, local high schools and universities and professional sport teams. These coaches are then asked to return to their communities and train other teachers and coaches. Published results indicate that both coaches and youth are experiencing increases in mutual understanding, cultural sensitivity, soccer knowledge and peaceful living skills application. Communities report feeling the impact of the program and having more girls involved in soccer. Most impactful activities are reported to be opportunities to coach youth from other cultures, interaction with local U.S. community members and training on positive coaching. Program personnel also report changes in mutual understanding and cultural sensitivity.

Additionally, Blom has been an invited expert on using sport for development to counter violent extremism for closed roundtable discussions hosted by the Center on Global Counterterrorism Cooperation and Hedayah, as well as served as a curriculum developer for the Power Forward sport for development basketball program in Nigeria run by Africare and a consultant for the LA.C.E.S youth development program that uses soccer to develop youth leaders affected by conflict and Ebola.