Just about every kid I knew growing up was sent along to Saturday netball and soccer games. Sometimes a club team lead to a representative team and that might lead to being made captain of the sport back at school. Perhaps that looked good in the resume and made some difference when it came to applying for a Saturday morning job. Maybe, when it came time to sorting through a pile of applications from teenagers who were otherwise indistinguishable, college administrators thought sport experience suggested a well-rounded individual. Perhaps our parents thought it was nice we were making a wider group of friends and voluntarily paying attention to things an adult had to say. Somewhere along the way the grown ups who made decisions about our future presumed we were learning the same sort of skills that are valued by employers, though there were plenty of examples that might suggest otherwise.
These days we know a lot more about connecting sport and employability and employment and that is a good thing because people’s lives depend on it. A netball network in Tonga is the difference between a woman entering politics and being unknown. An internship with a sponsor sets an adolescent boy in India on a trajectory where he earns vocational qualifications and provides for an extended family. Used intelligently, sport can trigger a cascade of solutions and opportunities.
If we focus on the components for which there is evidence then we learn the path between sport, being employable and gaining employment is more multifacetedthan showing up for Thursday night training and Saturday fixtures.
While sport structures (e.g. teams, heirarchy, leagues, mastery etc) should lend themselves easily to individual's developing soft skills valued by employers, there is little evidence that all models are truly successful in their attempts. Rather the program needs to be designed specifically to achieve those outcomes. If the program does successfully develop these soft skills, there is the opportunity to take the next steps which include developing hard skills, opening doors and influencing markets.
*Content is adapted from a 2015 report commissioned by Comic Relief and undertaken by the Sport Industry Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University, along with Professor Fred Coalter, and Dr Geoff Nichols (University of Sheffield) and combined with more recent information from other sources.
What’s worked for you? Do you have any stories about ways your sport program uses these approaches to increase employability?