Expert Group on Skills and HR: ENGSO delivered messages on volunteering and equality

Sunny and warm Lisbon was the venue of the 4th meeting of the European Commission Expert Group “Skills and Human Resources Development in Sport” (XG HR), which took place on 15–16 May 2019. ENGSO has observer status in the group and was represented by Policy Director Kaisa Larjomaa.

The first day of the meeting kicked off at the National High Performance Center with presentations on the good practices from Portugal and a visit to the facilities. Victor Pardal, Filipe Castro and Joao Fernandes presented the “UAARE – Units of Support of High Performance in Schools” programme that helps young athletes reconcile their sports career with school success. Joaquim Evangelista presented how the Portuguese Football Players Union enhances their members’ dual career opportunities by e.g. researching individual needs and interests, finding education and training opportunities, promoting players as employees, and helping players start their own businesses.

Following the visit to the National High Performance Center, the first day was concluded by a combined #BeActive networking session and sightseeing tour, and informal dinner at Castelo de São Jorge.

The second day, which took place at the Jupiter Lisboa Hotel, was opened with the welcome words from the hosting organisation, the Portuguese Institute for Sport. During the session, Head of Sport Unit Yves Le Lostecque from the European Commission gave information on recent policy developments. The 2019 Erasmus+ Call saw altogether 743 applications, and applicants may expect the results in October at the earliest. Around that time, also the Erasmus+ Call 2020 will be opened – the last call of the current EU financial term. In 2020, 65 million euros will be given out to sports projects, with similar priorities and schedule as in the Eramus+ Call in 2019. Mr. Le Lostecque also informed the participants of the upcoming pilot calls for project proposals, including the one on the integration of refugees through sport that was launched the following week. The third edition of the #BeInclusive EU Sport Awards has also been recently launched, with the deadline for proposals set on 23 July.

During the first session on the education of coaches, presentations were provided by Sergio Lara-Bercial from the International Council for Coaching Excellence and Louis Moustakas from the European Network of Sport Education (ENSE), and Antonia Hagemann from Supporters Direct Europe, giving some interesting insights on their European projects related to the meeting topics.

During the second session on the education of coaches, the participants discussed the draft guidelines regarding the basic requirements in skills and competences for coaches. ENGSO Policy Director Kaisa Larjomaa reminded the observers that even though the European sports and physical activity sector can boast by engaging 9 million coaches – more than teachers and doctors – it’s vital to note that coaching is not a profession like the others.

"The vast majority of the coaches that educate our children, youth, adults and seniors in clubs work on a voluntary basis, and that is a richness. Volunteering is the basis of sport as a civil society movement, and without volunteers, we would not have sport in Europe as we know it today. People take up coaching from a vast richness of backgrounds and follow a variety of career paths, with the support of an immensely diverse coach education sector. The societal value of coaches in terms of e.g. skills development and social inclusion is unmeasurable, and the expectations laid on coaches need to be matched with education that supports the multiple roles that coaches play today – whether they are volunteers or paid professionals" - Larjomaa summarises her message.

Larjomaa also proposed that the future guidelines should take a proactive role in advancing gender equality, in line with the Proposal for Strategic Actions on Gender Equality in Sport 2014–2020, adopted by the Group of Experts 'Gender Equality in Sport' in 2014. The document proposes e.g. to include evidence-based knowledge about gender and gender equality in coach education at all levels.

"There is a persistent gender gap in sport, up to the very elite level. We are just now beginning to understand how little we know about women’s sport – for example how our muscles and metabolism work and how they differ from those of men’s. Women’s full potential in sport cannot be reached when we don’t even know how to coach women at a scientific level, not to mention the negative impact of sexism and gender-based violence" - Larjomaa says.

The Strategic Actions document also proposes that by 2020, women should make up a minimum of 40% of coaches. While recognising that we’re already in 2019, this important goal could be advanced by for example implementing some of the good practices mapped in the Strengthening Coaching with the Objective to Raise Equality (SCORE) project, funded by Erasmus+ in 2015–2017. The SCORE Interactive Toolkit offers practical guidance on e.g. how to organise education and training in order to attract more women in coaching.

The next session saw interesting presentations on the topic of Qualifications and Skills in Sport. Cliff Collins from EuropeActive presented the work of the fitness sector that has been done to harmonise the professional qualifications in the sector. Jana Havrdová from the Czech Chamber of Fitness presented the qualifications framework of Czech fitness instructors. Simone Digennaro and Ben Gittus from the European Observatoire of Sport and Employment (EOSE) presented the key labour market statistics as well as the survey results from the ESSA-SPORT project, where ENGSO is also involved as an expert organisation.

The second day of the meeting was finalised with a presentation regarding the Portuguese Sport System by Vítor Pataco, President of the Portuguese Institute of Sport, and the conclusions of the meeting.

"All in all, we’re excited to be part of the process to construct the guidelines for the future education of coaches. I see great potential in this initiative and am very pleased that ENGSO is able to bring the point of view of the voluntary-based sports movement to this Expert Group, in order to strengthen coach education so that our coaches can excel at what they do" - Larjomaa concludes.

ENGSO representatives were present also in the previous XG HR meetings that took place in February 2018 in Bath, UK, in July 2018 in Split, Croatia, and in November 2018 in Salzburg, Austria. The final meeting of the Expert Group is planned to take place during the final months of 2019.