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Initial experiences of utilising social media for online sports engagement

Copyrights: Pro Sport Development

Initial experiences of utilising social media for online sports engagement

Pro Sport Development share their experiences of using social media to keep children engaged in physical activities.

Pro Sport Development (PSD) believes in the power of sports as a tool for the holistic development of children and youth. This belief has been taken forward even during the current time of crisis, as sports can be an antidote to the physical and psychosocial ailments faced by many young people. Since the lockdown due to COVID-19 in India from March, PSD has been engaging with its program participants in Bhubaneswar through digital platforms, in particular social media, as the partner schools remain closed due to the pandemic. For many weeks, PSD’s office in Bhubaneswar was also shut and the team was working from home in different parts of Odisha. The question was then, how  do we engage the participants meaningfully using physical activity during  this period?

The need to engage the participants online

PSD felt that it was necessary to absorb the participants in physical activity from their homes, as the pandemic and the lockdown were suspected to have adverse effects on their mental and physical  well-being. Sport is an effective tool to boost one’s emotional and physical health and well-being, along with building immunity and happiness. Since the participants have been out of school for a long period, PSD at the start of the lockdown itself thought of ways to take physical activity to them online. 

Solutions

To support the participants during this uncertain time, PSD created short instructional videos which included fitness routines, stretching sessions, yoga asanas, and some fun games and activities which can be done at home with minimal space requirement and equipment. These were shared via WhatsApp groups prepared by the PSD team for different participants from various schools. These groups were set up and operated by the PSD team.

The PSD team ensured that they received consent from the parents of the participants to join the WhatsApp groups and access the online videos. Once the groups were created, the PSD team conveyed the purpose of the videos and group. The participants had the freedom to leave the group if they were not comfortable or interested. The PSD team was able to build a rapport with the participants through these online groups. Moreover, the PSD team also gave instructions on online privacy and dos and don’ts of online participation to maintain a healthy environment. Along with the participants, PSD also educated their parents on the use of the internet, various applications on the phone and laws pertaining to online privacy.

To create the videos, the PSD team first decided on the content of the videos - fitness, stretching, yoga, and fun games that would be both interactive and informative for the participants. Secondly, it was decided to keep the videos short, about 1 minute each, to ensure suitable engagement and relevance of the videos. Finally, the video content was generated and shot by the PSD team themselves, using their smartphones.

Prior to PSD’s team preparing these videos, an online workshop was conducted to build their capacity on shooting the videos using their phones while utilising household equipment as resources for the exercises. The workshop helped the team understand the technicalities of shooting videos in order to make it relevant for the participants in terms of exercise, time-duration, and language.

Learning and challenges

The PSD team in Bhubaneswar faced a few challenges while developing these short videos. Firstly, there was limited access to resources, personnel, and equipment to prepare and share the videos. Secondly, many participants lacked accessibility to the internet and smartphones. Thirdly, collecting the phone numbers of the participants’ parents in Bhubaneswar to create the WhatsApp groups proved to be a challenge, as PSD never felt the need to do so earlier while engaging with them through their schools.

In order to mitigate these challenges, PSD took a few proactive steps. Once the WhatsApp groups were created using limited phone numbers acquired, the PSD team asked the participants to share the videos further with their friends from school to increase the outreach. Additionally, the PSD team connected with the teachers of the partner schools in Bhubaneswar to collect the numbers of the participants. Since the contact details were mostly of the parents, and PSD is well-known in the schools attended by their children, the parents were comfortable with their engagement in the online activities.  PSD prioritised obtaining consent and putting in place online safeguarding mechanisms during the creation and operation of the WhatsApp groups to ensure the safety of  the participants. Moreover, initially PSD was sharing raw video files in the WhatsApp groups, which consumed too much data of the participants. However, based on their feedback, the PSD team started uploading videos on YouTube and sharing those links with the participants to decrease the usage of data, hence utilising another social media platform.

Future opportunities

Given the initial success of these WhatsApp groups, PSD also created other WhatsApp groups with partners and other organisations that work with children and youth, in order to share these resources with a larger number of young people. These groups consist of program staff of various organisations who receive these resources, and pass it further to the young people they work with. Given PSD’s success of leveraging social media to engage participants in sports-based activities online, we have been thinking of integrating this into our regular programs as well. The online approach will specifically be beneficial during various holidays (for e.g. summer and winter vacations), during which time participants do not attend school, and hence can be accessed online in order to be engaged in physical activity and sports.

 

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Pro Sport Development

Published

Monday, July 20, 2020 - 13:12