Results of research on inclusion in sport shared at conference Haarlem

Three years of research at European SEDY2 project completed

Sports participation among young people with a disability is lower than among their peers without a disability. In order to promote inclusion and equal rights in sport and to increase participation in sport, Inholland University of Applied Sciences has been the coordinator of the Erasmus+ project Sport Empowers Disabled Youth 2 (SEDY2) for the past three years. On 8 December, the final results were shared with a larger audience during the final conference at Inholland Haarlem. 

The SEDY2 project started in 2020 as a follow-up to SEDY1. The research was led by the Research Group Power of Sport and Physical Activity (Kracht van Sport en Bewegen) and carried out in close collaboration with partners from Portugal, Finland and Lithuania. 

"Inclusion is an ongoing process", stated Marije Deutekom, Executive Board, opening the conference. "And that means we have to work hard on it every day." In the morning, the results, the best practices and the developed educational material were shared. There were contributions from Raymon Blondel (President of the European Paralympic Committee) and Peter Downs (founder of the Inclusion Club) from Australia. And to conclude the plenary part, international representatives and experts from sport, politics and practice discussed the future implications of the SEDY2 project in two panel discussions. Those who wanted to go more in-depth, could join one of the three workshops in the afternoon. 

Work packages 
"If you want to promote inclusion and equal rights in sport for young people with disabilities, it is important to know what inclusion means for this group," says Jasmijn Holla, Professor Power of Sport and Physical activity. "That's why we held focus group discussions with children with disabilities, their parents and sports professionals who work with them. Furthermore, we have collected and exchanged the best practices that contribute to an inclusive environment with different countries. And finally, we have developed educational materials for sports professionals. Based on this, the SPIN tool (Sport Participation and INclusion) was created, containing all kinds of materials that contribute to inclusion in sports of this target group." 


One of the most important results from the SEDY2 study is that inclusion is mainly about having a choice, according to Afke Kerkstra, lecturer-researcher at Inholland. "That can vary from adapted sports with other people with a disability, to fully participating in the regular sport setting where nothing has been adapted. And everything in between. It's about being able to choose, being able to try things, and the feeling of belonging. If you want everyone to be able to participate, you have to create good sports opportunities for this target group, look for what fits together with them and see how you can support them. That's how you remove barriers." 

Nothing about us without us 
In the process of the project, all steps were consciously completed together with the young people with a disability. Jasmijn: "We did everything with the motto: nothing about us without us. For example, the two discussion panels included not only policymakers and sports professionals, but also the young people themselves. Do you agree with the results? Do you see that reflected in your own country? Where are we in the process and what is still needed? 

We also gave various workshops together with young people from STERKplaats Haarlem. About how you can include the voice of a child with a disability in the conversation, with the help of drawings, Lego or, for example, emoji pictures. Research, practice and education came really well together. In addition, I think we have made optimal use of each other's best practices: we have exchanged all existing knowledge in order to be able to learn from each other." 

PAPAI students 
One such best practice from Finland is the PAPAI programme, in which Sports Study students help children with a disability to find a suitable sporting hobby within their study specialization, Adapted Sports. They also assisted in the final conference. "In the Netherlands, we are well on our way to making sports inclusive and integrating them," says Sports Study student Jay Smit. "But there is still something to be gained in offering choices and providing tailor-made programs." 

"Guiding children with disabilities has taught me one thing," says student Maaike Gerritsen. "Ask them what they want! Because nine times out of ten they can explain that much better than we can do it for them." 

There are currently no concrete plans ready for a SEDY3, according to Jasmijn. “But I certainly expect that we will continue to work with some of the partners.” 

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