Last week, our Technical Assistance Program Director, Brian Cognato, attended “Change the Game” in Boston, a conference dedicated to exploring “Sport System (re)Design.”
At the heart of what PeacePlayers International does is a simple question: How can we use sport for something greater? What important outcomes can basketball help our youth achieve? I was lucky enough to attend a conference this past weekend that addressed that question head-on.
Three giants of sport-for-development in the U.S., Edgework Consulting, Up2Us and the Boston University Institute for Athletic Coach Education, recently came together to host “Change the Game,” a conference dedicated to exploring what they’ve called “Sport System (re)Design” – basically, tinkering with elements of organized sports as we know them so that they can contribute to specific youth-focused outcomes.
At the conference’s heart, too, there was a question: “How could we…?”
- How could we make sure young soccer players get as many touches as possible in a game?
- How could we make a version of lacrosse that men and women play together?
- How could we decrease stoppages of play in volleyball?
We here at PeacePlayers International already do this in a sense, asking ourselves, “How could we use basketball to build relationships among young people in communities with histories of conflict?” To do that, we mostly play with structure (such as how we build our teams) with some help from our curriculum and an inclusive organizational culture. “Change the Game,” though, suggested we could consider adding a new tool to our toolkit: the game of basketball itself.
What if, for example, the players on our teams had practice-buddies they stayed with throughout the entirety of practice, giving them more time to build a deep bond? What if we awarded points during scrimmages for sportsmanlike play? What if we handed out an award every year for the player that invites the most teammates over for dinner?
“Change the Game” was the kind of conference that encouraged you to ask “what if” first and then go back to take a hard look at how you could practically implement it. Our programs in the field have developed what they do very carefully over many years and we don’t tinker with them lightly. I’m excited to share what I learned about the process behind Sport System (re)Design with our local teams, though, to see what new, innovative ideas they come up with to help us have an even greater impact.
Special thanks to the conference hosts – Up2US, Edgework Consulting and the Boston University Institute for Athletic Coach Education – and to all the attendees, who contributed so much to the event.