What is sports development?

Sport is not only an exciting form of entertainment: it plays a truly valuable role in defining cultures and developing communities. Sport touches people’s lives in many different ways, not only in the UK but right across the globe.

It can offer a welcome distraction from personal problems and social challenges, it can improve people’s physical health, and it can encourage social interaction, involvement and regeneration. Careers in sports development are thus really important to the world of sport and the world in general.

What does sports development involve?

The main function of a sports development career is to encourage participation in sport. Not in the same way your parents did when they told you to, “go kick a ball around or something and stop playing on that stupid computer,” but by providing more opportunities for people to get involved.

Without these guys, a lot of people would never get the chance or the inspiration to get up, get out the house and get involved with sporting activity. People who work in sports development organise sports projects and programmes, training, coaching and other initiatives.

They help local clubs and schools to develop their sporting programmes and thus help increase people’s exposure to sport. Their valuable work helps to address issues such as poor health, crime and other social problems.

Sports development officers tend to work alongside the government, the NHS, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and charities in order to promote sporting participation in communities and to implement government initiatives.

How do I get started?

You’re most likely going to be starting out as a sports development assistant or sports development officer. Here, you’re likely to be getting involved with the active part of planning and implementing sport and recreation initiatives.

You’ll be a key figure in the promotion of sports projects, as well as developing public awareness of their importance, and liaising with governing bodies, schools and local clubs to promote best practice when it comes to coaching, training and youth development issues.

You will have a great knowledge of health, safety and child protection issues (N.B. often you will need to undergo a DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service, previously known as CRB) check before you can work in this kind of career), which will help you to pass on useful knowledge and advice to event organisers and sporting facilities managers. You might even get the chance to do some active coaching and supervision when it’s required.

The natural career progression then involves moving into a sports development manager position. At this level, you are likely to be less hands-on in your role. You’ll be managing relationships with the government and various NGOs, and driving forward the strategic approaches that are integral to implementing sports development initiatives. Here, you are also more likely to have direct man-management responsibilities and budget control.

It’s also possible to specialise in disability sports development. Understandably, an expert in this area carries out similar responsibilities as other sports development officers, but their sole focus is on promoting and supporting participation in disability sports. These roles can be especially rewarding when it comes to seeing the results of your hard work.

Sports development can be an exciting career path to follow. It can even provide opportunities for travel, as international sports development initiatives are becoming more common. Consequently, careers in this area are particularly competitive, so it’s definitely a good idea to get some volunteer experience before you pursue this route.

Sport needs to be one of the most important things in your life, and you will certainly need to have experience of coaching and organising sporting events. Building up contacts and networking can be another great way to help you progress.

In the wake of the 2012 London Olympics, public interest in sport has seriously increased, so you’ll be helping tons and tons of people to gain the opportunity to get healthy and form sporting communities. Sound like something you’d be into? Nice one – this might be the perfect thing for you!

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