#ESP2019 warm-up with Sara Massini: „SCORE for diversity in governance”

Updated: Nov 19, 2019

Diversity in governance is a "must have", if we would like to run our sports organisation effectively. ENGSO is an advocate for diversity, that is why one of the topics at the second European Sport Platform tackles this highly important topic. Sara Massini, Head of the International Department at OPES Italia and ENGSO Executive Committee member will present a former Erasmus+ Sport project and its national follow-up initiative that focus on diversity in governance. We sat down with Sara to learn more about this topic.

Q: Why do you think that diversity in governance is important in sports organisations?

Sara Massini, Head of International Department, OPES Italia
Sara Massini, Head of International Department, OPES Italia

A: First of all, we have to say that diversity in governance is crucial in all kinds of organisations at all levels, not only in sport. In fact, in order to make a good decision and provide answers for such a diverse society in which we all live, it is important to have a heterogeneous governing body that is able to represent and understand what diversity is. However, when it comes to sports organisations, it is even more important to open the governance to diversity. Sports organisations provide services and programmes for so many people who are diverse in age, gender, culture and many more aspects. And nowadays, the stimulations and the opportunities for citizens are so many that it is becoming more and more complex to attract new people and address their needs properly. The governance of an organisation should be able to reflect this diversity, this will allow them to take better and healthier decisions, reach higher goals and to respond to social challenges better and faster. Diversity is always an added value, especially in good governance, and we need to maintain our commitment to make sports organisations more and more open to that at all levels. 

Q: How did the SCORE project tackle the topic of diversity and what were the key elements of the project?

A: The SCORE project was a European project supported by the Erasmus+ Sport Programme, led by ENGSO to promote equal opportunities, namely gender equality in coaching. It focused on increasing the number of employed and volunteer female coaches at all levels of sport as well as on enhancing knowledge on gender equality in coach education. The reason for a project specifically dedicated to foster gender equality in coaching is to be found in the under-representation of women in sports coaching throughout all EU Member States. Figures show that between 20-30% of all sports coaches in Europe are women and the number of women with coaching qualification seems to be even lower. So, if it is true that we need to have more diversity represented in the governance of sports organisations, it is also true that coaches are the first faces that people meet in the sports environment, particularly at the grassroots level. They are the ones that represent the sports organisation the most, and also the ones who inspire athletes at all levels in starting a sports career. This is why there is a strong need to increase the representation of women in sport and coaching. The core of the project was to develop an educational toolkit, an "awareness pack" with tools targeted at both the sports organisations and coaches aiming at increasing the number of female coaches and breaking down the barriers for female coaching by innovative solutions. The project also aimed at creating an education programme for mentors and educate 24 mentors to support potential female coaches around Europe. After the creation of the toolkit, national training sessions were organised in Croatia, Cyprus, Finland, Germany, Lithuania, Portugal, Sweden and the UK to facilitate the implementation and dissemination of the toolkit as well as to educate the relevant stakeholders. The project, in the end, was very successful, because the 24 mentors educated through the programme started several mentoring action plans for women coaches in their countries and many women started the process to become coaches. In addition to that, after our training sessions at national level, the topic of women in sports coaching was put on the agenda of several sport federations and interesting programmes for female coaches have started.

Q: Can you describe the follow-up project from the initial idea to the current state of the project?

A: Despite the dedication of stakeholders, gender equality has not reached an acceptable level and the implementation of concrete actions is still lacking in many EU member states. The SCORE project was a great starting point, but the countries involved were not that many. In Italy, for example, the number of women in sport is increasing and the Italian Olympic Committee is also investing in several projects to increase the number of women in governance. However, as said, the first faces of sport for many people at grassroots level are still coaches, and if we look at the voluntary-based grassroots sport, we also register the need for increasing the number of human resources, and the only aspect which the sport sector is not really looking at is the implementation of specific programmes for women into coaching. Because of this, in OPES, we thought that someone has to start to change this situation. Looking at the good practice of SCORE, we decided to start a new programme for sports clubs at the grassroots level to increase the number of female coaches. From this consideration, OPES started the project "Play to Train" with the aim of increasing the number of women into coaching within sports organisations and we involve trainers, mentors and coaches in the programme. The toolkit we will use in Play to Train is the one created within SCORE and adapted to the new context of the three participating countries: Italy, Slovenia and Bulgaria. At the moment, we are implementing the training phase to be able to use the toolkit and then the participants will return to their organisation and will start a pilot programme to increase the number of women in their coaching teams. 

Sara Massini will give more insight to the topic of diversity in governance at the European Sport Platform on 5 October. You can register to the #ESP2019 by clicking here and you can learn more about all the topics covered by clicking here.

The #ESP2019 is organised by ENGSO, in partnership with the European Lotteries and hosted by OPES Italia.