Volunteering abroad in sports basically falls into two categories: coaching in school systems through after school youth programs or coaching in junior elite programs designed to train rising stars for international amateur competitions or professional leagues. By far, basic sports coaching abroad is more plentiful and invites volunteers with broader skill sets in a larger variety of sports. However, no matter where conduct sports volunteering abroad, coaching sports abroad in a different cultural setting can be extremely rewarding and eye-opening.
Why Volunteer Abroad in Sports
Participation in sports is important for all children in terms of their physical health, learning to work as a team, discovering new skills, and simply for the joy of playing. But for underprivileged youth, whether it’s in an inner city or in a developing country, sports can bring an important sense of worth and belonging and, for some, a route to higher education. If you’re a teacher or coach, you love children, and you know the basics about a specific sport, especially soccer or basketball, chances are you won’t have any trouble finding a placement coaching sports abroad.
There are also sports volunteering opportunities abroad at major sporting events around the world, such as the Olympics and soccer’s World Cup, though these are more difficult to obtain and clearly happen only seasonally. For these events, you will not only support the event itself and help promote the industry, you will also become a supporter of these event’s larger goal of cross-cultural interaction which brings the world together.
When it comes to developing countries, opportunities for sports volunteering abroad are most prominent in Ghana, India, Kenya, Peru, and South Africa.
Sports coaching volunteers are especially needed in inner city, urban areas in both developing and developed countries, where resources are notoriously limited and increased unity and understanding among youth is most greatly needed. For example, the city of Rio de Janeiro has begun a major initiative in its slum areas (in part because of the publicity around its hosting of the Olympic Games and World Cup) focusing on youth sports leagues, especially soccer, as well as art and music programs. The initiative is meant to decrease issues among youth and help students develop essential life skills.
The Olympics and the World Cup generally move from continent to continent, the last two World Cup tournaments were in South Africa and Brazil and the next two will be in Russia and Qatar, so opportunities to volunteer at the World Cup or the Olympics tend to span the globe. It is more common, however, for these events to take place in developed nations.
Sports Volunteering Abroad
In most of the world, soccer is king when it comes to sports, so it is one of the most common sports taught to children around the world. The great thing about soccer is it doesn’t require a lot of equipment and it can be played in almost any kind of open space. Basketball is quickly becoming a close second to soccer in its international appeal, especially since it provides greater opportunity for youth to earn significant scholarships for university. But coaching sports abroad is not limited to soccer and basketball, there are opportunities to participate in sports volunteering around the world in a range of sports, from volleyball to dance to golf.
By far the most common types of sports volunteering abroad are focused on sports coaching, whether for specific organized teams, in after school programs, or at local youth or community centers.
Sports Coaching. Those who volunteer in sports coaching abroad may be teaching the basic rules of a specific sport to young athletes and helping them to develop skills or they may be managing teams of advanced athletes who participate in competitive sports leagues.
After School Programs & Youth Centers. Working with children and youth in sports leagues after school and in urban community centers is one of the best ways to combat drug use, gang participation, dropouts, and even teen pregnancies. Volunteers in these placements will teach a variety of sports to local youth and help organize friendly, non competitive games in the community.
Education. Volunteers in sports education help develop curriculum and sets goals and standards for sports programs in schools. These volunteers typically teach sports classes during the regular school day to provide physical education to the children and expand their understanding of sports.
Additional opportunities for sports volunteering abroad surround the more corporate, entertainment, global sporting industry.
Promotion, Marketing, & Logistics. Usually associated with large sporting events that are international in nature, individuals who volunteer in sports marketing may be tasked with putting together newsletters, promoting the event on social media platforms, or conducting various other marketing or advertising duties. Any major sporting event has a local organizing committee that exists to attract events to their area and coordinate the things needed to host a sporting event. These organizations recruit volunteers to help with various logistical tasks, possible volunteer opportunities include, ushers, ticketing, and event set-up and take-down.
Benefits & Challenges
Sports volunteering abroad can make a huge difference in a young person’s life, especially in countries where access to facilities, equipment, and sport instruction is either limited or expensive. Beyond providing a unique resource to youth, research has shown that engagement in sports, particularly team sports, helps build life skills that are essential for future life success for underprivileged populations. Anyone who becomes a sports coach abroad working with marginalized youth will act as a solid role model and consistent support system, and could serve as a greater inspiration in the community as well.