Your Sport Organisation as a Leader

Sport organisations, including both State Sporting Associations and clubs, can positively impact the lives of people with disability.

Doing this requires strong leadership and an actively inclusive culture, from the board or committee right down to the grassroots. Leaders set the strategy and culture of organisations, so it is important that they understand the value of inclusive sport. Vicsport asked senior leaders about their approach to leadership for the Are You On Board? campaign.

Gymnastics Victoria was involved in the State Sporting Association Participation Program and as an organisation displayed notable leadership in breaking down the barriers to participation for people with disability. This video demonstrates the impact they have had and the benefits of gymnastics to people with disability.

Creating a cultural change is so important as it enables leaders right across the organisation to develop skills, set expectations about appropriate behavior and ensure all participants in the sport (including volunteers and officials) understand the role they have in contributing to a welcoming and inclusive environment. People with disability contribute to many sport organisations in leadership roles. You might consider finding people within your own organisation who have leadership skills that could be supported.

Supporting Leaders

Identifying leaders and people of influence, including board members, staff, volunteers, coaches, officials and club members, to be champions of change is vital to becoming an inclusive sport. Leaders will help define and influence your sport’s culture. They might require practical training to improve their knowledge, skills and capacity to change their own and others’ behaviors and practices to support inclusion. There are several ways you can support leaders to give them the necessary skills and knowledge to drive cultural change:

  • Disability awareness training is a useful activity for current and future leaders, to support them to think about disability in new ways; and increase their awareness, understanding and confidence. Training can be useful to provide sport organisations a greater level of awareness of the abilities of people with disability, learn about inclusive communication and take away practical tips and principles to apply across their organisation. Click here for a resource from the State Government of Victoria which provides more information about Disability Awareness Training (insert PDF document ‘Disability Awareness Training’).
  • Inclusive procedures. It is important for leaders of sport organisations to ensure their policies and procedures support and promote accessibility for people with disability. For example, website communications might be provided in a range of formats to ensure people with hearing or vision impairments can access the information. Click here for a resource from the State Government of Victoria which provides more information about inclusive procedures (insert PDF document ‘Disability Awareness Training’).
  • Consult people with disability. It is important for leaders to understand the value of consulting with people with disability. A fundamental principle of inclusive sport is that people with disability should have input into the planning and development of any strategies, policies or participation opportunities that impact them. Leaders should drive consultation and ensure the necessary staff or volunteers are consulting the right people. Click here for a resource from the State Government of Victoria which provides more information about consulting with people with disability (insert PDF document ‘Disability Awareness Training’).
  • Communication. Not every person with a disability requires tailored communication, yet for those who do, it helps if leaders understand acceptable forms of communication and language so that they can set the expectations within their organisation. Language is important, and everyone from the board / committee level right down to coaches, volunteers and officials will benefit from understanding what kind of language is appropriate to use in certain contexts. Click here for a resource from the State Government of Victoria which provides more information about communicating with people with disability (insert PDF document ‘Communicating with People with disability’

Effective Strategy Leadership

A successful approach to increasing participation in sport of people with disability starts with strategy. This means having an effective board or committee who know how to lead the change. It also means embedding inclusion in strategic and operational plans so that inclusion becomes part of your organisations core business. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

There are several ways your organisation can strengthen your strategic approach to inclusion. These include:

  • Board / committee level advocates. During the State Sporting Association Participation Program, Gymnastics Victoria appointed a disability advocate to their board. In doing this, GV received relevant advice and information about people with disability during board discussions, enabling them to create a more effective strategy to engage people with disability in gymnastics.
  • Board / committee training. You could engage an organisation who specialise in supporting people with disability to deliver a training session to your board or committee. Doing this can help educate leaders about the opportunities available to your sport and understand specific barriers to participation which you can then aim to break down. Different organisations which support people with disability can provide specific training programs like deaf awareness training or blindness disability awareness.
  • Use evidence. It is important to use evidence and data when discussing opportunities for your organisation to increase participation in your sport. You can consider some of the following points:
    • What will be the financial benefits to our organisation (through increased funding and membership)?
    • What will be the cultural benefits to our organisation (creating welcoming and inclusive environments can benefit everyone in the organisation, building capability and positive attitudes in current staff, volunteers and participants)?
    • How has this benefited other sport organisations? You can highlight the success of other State Sporting Associations or clubs to demonstrate what your organisation can reasonably achieve.
  • Talk about disability inclusion. Leaders can publicise their strategic commitment to inclusion by talking about how people with disability are involved in their sport at forums, meetings or in conversations with other leaders. Doing this helps to promote an environment where including people with disability is considered ‘core business’ for sport organisations.
  • Create a disability action plan. A Disability Action Plan (DAP) is a list of actions an organisation puts together to help achieve better outcomes for people with disability in relation to the services and facilities provided by the organisation. DAPs can be as detailed as a comprehensive document or as simple as a one-page list of actions. For most sport organisations including State Sporting Associations and clubs, a DAP might be a 1-2 page document. You can read more about the benefits of a DAP in this guide from the Office for Disability – What is a Disability Action Plan? (insert PDF ‘what is a disability action plan’).

If you would like more information about supporting leaders to make your organisation more inclusive visit: