Use a non-mainstream sport and win big
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sportanddev.org interviews co-founder of Bridging the Gaps (BtG), Liz Haynes. BtG uses Ultimate Frisbee as a tool for social change with youth in India.

BtG’s mission is “To inspire a generation of Indian youth to bridge the gaps created by poverty, gender and caste through a uniquely designed sport-art camp”. Having conducted four editions of the camp that uses a non-mainstream sport, Liz talks to sportanddev.org about the background, challenges and gives advice for others.

Why did you pick a non-mainstream sport?
I did have to choose between football and ultimate when we were creating our first camp. After six months of watching our teens play both sports and compete in tournaments, I was won over by ultimate completely. This wasn’t a sport I had grown up playing in the U.S. so it was eye-opening for me to see clearly the merits of this sport over others I had been exposed to.

Ultimate is an easier tool to build critical life skills like positive communication, empathy, equality, team play, open-mindedness and confidence. And this is because of the inherent components of the sport.

Plus, the fact that boys and girls are coming in as equals – they both haven’t played the sport – is a neutraliser of sorts. Everyone is learning rules and the basics of the game.

There is also a non-sport component to BtG. Why?
We use many tools such as circus, dance, art and theatre alongside sport. It’s a much richer experience to have all of these activities and kids who come to camp are not necessarily all great athletes. So we’ve found that some of our kids shine during dance or art sessions while others shine on the field.

It’s eye-opening for their teammates to see and appreciate those skills you wouldn’t in a traditional sport camp. Also, all of these activities complement each other as a way of kids learning basic skills such as making eye-contact, communicating and opening the body. All of these ‘tools’ are used to build the life skills and break down the barriers between participants; that’s the crux of camp.

Do you think BtG can be easily replicated in other parts of the world?
Yes but with changes which factor in the local and cultural context.

Our gender components are tailored specifically to underprivileged kids. Gender based violence (GBV) is extremely prevalent in India.

If we brought this module to the US or Brazil, we’d have to reconfigure it for the kids we were specifically working with. That’s the challenge, but it’s also the creative and exciting part for us!

Sangeetha Isvaran and Liz Haynes are co-founders of Bridging The Gaps and have partnered with Chennai based NGO, Pudiyador, in the past.



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