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Incorporating action sports into SDP


Incorporating action sports into SDP

The final article in a seven part series from Dr Holly Thorpe: Action sports carry a lot of potential for use in SDP programmes, but implementing organisations would do well to consult participants in order to use them effectively. 

There is much potential for action sports to be successfully incorporated into existing SDP organisations’ programmes, particularly those focused on improving the health and wellbeing of children and youth for whom action sports are often hugely popular. It would be a mistake, however, for governmental agencies or SDP organisations to try to “fit” action sports into existing frameworks.

Action sports have their own unique cultural rules, norms and value systems, and participants tend to enjoy the anti-authoritarian, non-competitive, individualistic, creative and expressive elements of these sports. Organisations that deal mostly with traditional sports would do well to consult with action sport participants before developing programmes. Indeed, many valuable lessons might be learned from those individuals already working in successful ASDP organisations (e.g., Skateistan, Surf Aid International), and from those participants who have actively established grassroots groups in spaces of conflict and disaster.

Furthermore, the local and transnational networks of action sports communities also offer interesting opportunities for cultural exchange programmes (either via physical travel or virtual dialogues facilitated by social media) that promote respect and understanding among action sport participants within and across countries and regions of the world. Respectful collaborations with key individuals in both formal and informal ASDP projects have the potential to positively contribute to the sustainability and success of future youth-focused SDP projects.

Based on a lifetime of participation and ten years of extensive research into the growth and development of action sports in local, virtual and global contexts, Dr Thorpe has made a number of key recommendations for policy actions for organisations interested in using action sports to improve the health and wellbeing of children and youth. This seven part series has covered an array of topics ranging from issues related to female participation, to the element of risk and injury, to the role of action sports in post-disaster and war-torn contexts. She has advocated greater governmental and community investment in both new and existing action sport-related development and peace building (ASDP) programmes both at home and abroad.

There is great potential for consulting and collaborating with action sport participants to further expand existing grassroots programmes, and to create new programmes that excite, inspire and empower children and youth, and offer a different set of social, physical and psychological skills that traditional rule-bound sports. In so doing, however, organisations should take care to avoid top-down models and instead approach such initiatives with a position of respect for the agency, autonomy and voices of action sport participants. Dr Thorpe welcomes enquires from those interested in extending these discussions further.


Article type



Holly Thorpe


Tuesday, September 17, 2013 - 23:00