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  • Norman Brook

Emerging from Lockdown

Updated: Jun 7

COVID 19 Responses for Sport for Development Organisations


Around the world different countries have locked down to prevent the spread of the COVID 19 virus with children and young people no longer able to attend the programmes run by sport for development organisations.


Whilst a stay at home approach has enabled social distancing to take place in some communities for many children and young people living in impoverished conditions around the world social distancing has been difficult resulting in them taking part in informal sport in settings where some of the virus spread prevention measures have not been adhered to.


Some children might have been better served through formal access to sport delivered along with health messages by the sport for development sector.


The rapid spread of the virus did not provide time for governments and organisations to consider the best ways of keeping children physically active, promoting their emotional well being. and educating them on how they can help prevent the spread of the virus.


We are now at a stage where we are seeing the easing of lock down and progressing towards the gradual opening of access to sport including sport for development programmes. It may however be a considerable time until we get back to some kind of normal so we need to consider what the role of sport for development organisations might play as they are gradually allowed to re-open their programmes.


We do however need to keep in mind that the Covid-19 pandemic is a public health emergency and that decisions to reopen activity and how this is to be achieved need to take into consideration public health advice. Sport for development organisations are often resource scarce and may face particular challenges in resuming activities safely. They work with children and young people who are often vulnerable and may need support to ease their way back to the sports activities that they have been excluded from in recent months.


COVID 19 Virus


Here are some facts for us to consider:

  • The virus is spread by people;

  • A person may be infected with the virus, have no symptoms and be spreading the virus unknowingly;

  • The virus may be spread through the air we breathe in or by contact with surfaces contaminated with the virus;

  • Social distancing and reducing the number of people you come into contact with helps slow down the transmission of the virus;

  • Avoiding physical contact with others helps slow down transmission of the virus;

  • Face masks may help reduce the spread of the virus through airborne droplets resulting from infected persons breathing, coughing or sneezing;

  • Regular washing of hands with soap and water or hand sanitiser kills the virus;

  • Sanitising surfaces kills the virus;

  • There is a higher likelihood of the virus being transmitted in enclosed indoor areas than outdoors.

What steps can sport for development organisations take to respond to the COVID 19 virus when we start to emerge from lock down?


The following is a list of some considerations.

  • Follow advice/instructions being issued by the public health authorities in your country.

  • Consideration should be given to running outdoor rather than indoor activities.

  • Organisations should ensure that all children and young people attending S4D sessions wash their hands with soap and water before and after activity. Organisations should provide water and soap or hand sanitiser.

  • In resource constrained operations consider setting up a tippy tappy or two.



  • Provide each child or young person with their own mask and require them to wear masks during practice.

  • Ask children and young people to arrive at sessions dressed to play.

  • Sanitise equipment such as balls and cones before and after sessions.

  • Ensure that children and young people stand 1.5 metres apart during opening and closing circle session introductions.

  • Sports activities should be non-contact and enforce a minimum 1.5 metres between participants during practice. This will require sports coaches, teachers or activity leaders to re-design activities to create the space for children and for young people to distance from each other during practice.

  • For games or game application activities we will need to introduce rules that prohibit the players getting too close together. Sports coaches, teachers and activity leaders will need to be creative but could also involve children and young people in designing and enforcing these rules.

  • Shared bibs to identify different teams should be avoided. Instead each child will need to have their own bibs or maybe you can provided each child with two different coloured masks and can use these two identify team players.

  • No handshakes of high fives. Ask children and young people to come up with safer greetings and celebrations of success that avoid physical contact.

  • Reduce the numbers of learners at each session. If you normally run a session for 30 children or young people reduce this to 15 by organising two sessions or by providing the practice into two groups well distanced from each other.

  • Reduce the number of sessions per week and give the learners skills activities to practice on their own or with family members at home. Developing fundamental sports skills rather than just giving young people some physical fitness activities will be important to ensure the continuing development of sports skills.

  • Use the closing circle whilst observing social distancing to include reflection on hygiene (COVID 19) related life skills.

  • Sports coaches and programme managers should visit websites of the international and national sports federations in respect of the sports they offer in their programmes to get sports specific information on post lock down guidelines.


Placing Hygiene at the Centre of Life-Skills


Sport for development programmes work on the basis of developing the life-skills of children and young people through sport using intentional design. In the post lock down period and for some time to come developing life-skills focused on hygiene will be important as will encouraging behavioural change by creating enabling environments and promoting personal agency so that children and young people take action to prevent transmission of the virus.


Life-skills, or as they are also known life competences, are a dynamic mix of one's interpersonal, intrapersonal and cognitive skills, knowledge and mindset/attitude. The following diagram shows how these contribute to the dealing with the pandemic and its after effects.


COVID 19 & Life Skills








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