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Waugh wants greater focus on social impact of sport

Copyrights: Laureus

Waugh wants greater focus on social impact of sport

Former Australia cricket captain Steve Waugh has encouraged sport’s key organisations to get more involved in the sport for development sector.

Waugh was speaking at the Laureus Global Summit in Paris in partnership with Allianz, where 130 programmes from across the globe – all using sport and physical activity to support young people in the greatest need – gathered this week to showcase and share their work.

The 53-year-old is a member of the ‘Laureus World Sports Academy’, an exclusive group of more than 60 sporting legends co-ordinated by the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation.

My first Awards were in 2001 when the Australia team was nominated and we were lucky enough to win the World Sports Award, which was an amazing experience in Monaco,” said Waugh, who admits he has to explain the concept of sport for development to friends and acquaintances back home.

Maybe it’s not so well known in Australia as it might be in South Africa, Europe or America – but I explain our main focus is supporting the Sport for Good Foundation where we have 130 projects across more than 30 countries, all using sport as a tool for social change.

They are basically giving the kids the opportunity to be the best they can be by using sport as a common thread throughout those projects.”

Although sustainability has become increasingly important in recent years for sporting bodies such as the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and world football’s governing body FIFA, Waugh believes that global networks such as Laureus offer a framework which could benefit all parties – with grassroots organisations providing years of evidence based on frontline delivery, and top-level sport reconnecting with its roots and recovering from a series of problems in recent decades, ranging from corruption to doping, to abuse scandals.

It would be great to have the backing of bigger organisations for Laureus,” said Waugh. “Laureus are using iconic sportspeople to promote sport and good health, and a number of other issues that the Foundation focuses on, so if they can work together to produce a greater outcome, then I think that would be really positive for both.

I would definitely encourage bigger organisations to look at these other projects further down, on different levels, and support each other. They could work together more and use their assets - basically they could definitely do things more quickly together!”

Sport for development is, of course, something fundamentally different to elite sport, and in no way supplants it. But Waugh concedes that “the saturation of sport in the media” is possibly one reason why the concept of using sport and physical activity to generate positive social outcomes has not become more well-known as yet.

These days you turn on the TV and you can watch 20 different sports at that high level. These can be sports that many people never really get access to, plus there are so many new sports coming through too – it’s almost like an overload of sports. You are almost spoiled for choice.

It’s always been a battle to get projects like these at the forefront because people just want to see the best players and they want to see the national team or their club team play well. That’s why most people watch sport.

Sport at the top level is professional, and people are trying their whole lives to do it. What we are talking about here is different; it’s giving kids an opportunity at life, and using sport as that tool to provide opportunities – from here they learn skills that are heavily involved in sport, whether that’s leadership or being role models, having to turn up on time or be part of something which is bigger than themselves.”

But the former Australian Test skipper is excited by the growing ‘sport for change’ movement, which is being given even more credence by Laureus and other organisations focusing their work on specific targets defined by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

I think it is happening, and I think there is movement towards that happening, for example if you look at how the Paralympics is getting a lot more publicity – it should be on a level par with the Olympics. If you look at women in sport in Australia, there has been a huge change there – it’s become a lot more focused and much more professional.

The nature of sport is changing, and I guess it’s up to those main bodies to work with, and support, organisations like this – they are the ones benefitting and making money, but they need to continue passing that money down to these grassroots programmes, to get kids involved in sport. Then they will all benefit from it.”

 

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Simon Lansley

Published

Thursday, October 18, 2018 - 09:25