Sports clubs across Northern Ireland have been urged to reach out to their local communities by introducing more inclusion initiatives.
Michael Arends, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager at German Bundesliga club Werder Bremen, told an audience at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park that clubs and organisations could and should do more to be part of their communities.
Arends was the keynote speaker at the 2019 Sport In The Community Conference - it had a theme of ‘Focused On Potential’ - and he shared his club’s experience of how they have become one of Europe’s leading clubs in the delivery of social responsibility programmes.
He explained Werder Bremen had integrated into the community by introducing diverse inclusion initiatives, including disability and environmental programmes. And he urged sports clubs and organisations to be more inclusive.
The event was staged as part of the Stadium Community Benefits Initiative, a social responsibility programme run by the Irish FA in conjunction with Belfast City Council and the Department for Communities.
Three workshops were staged at the conference, too, and they focused on women in sport, mental health and coach mentoring.
Mary O’Connor, CEO of the Federation of Irish Sport, explained the thinking behind the new 20x20 women in sport campaign, which is supported by the Northern Ireland Sports Forum. The campaign aims to boost female involvement in sport by 20% by 2020 under the pillars of participation, attendance and media coverage.
Former Manchester United and Wigan player and Northern Ireland international Pat McGibbon looked at mental health in sport. He explained how he became a mental health ambassador and set up his charity Train 2B Smart, which promotes positive mental health and wellbeing in sport. The workshop featured an interactive session which focused on the impact and influence sport can have on mental health.
Alan Nixon, the Irish FA Foundation’s Education and Empowerment Officer, ran the workshop on coach mentoring. The importance of a coach development pathway and enhancing the capability and sustainability of sports clubs via mentor support for coaches were among the topics discussed.