The first module of the S2A European Course on Sport Administration, organised as part of the EU funded S2A Sport Mobility project, took place from the 27 of September to the 01 of October 2021 as a series of five online afternoon sessions.
After more than two years of planning, several postponements, and the switch to an online format due to the Covid-19 pandemic, over 40 participants from the Western Balkans and Europe successfully completed the module entitled Successful Strategy. Participants took part in a range of learning activities including lectures, group work, panel discussions and guest presentations. The Course Team, led by Kirstie Simpson from the University of Chester (UK), were delighted with the week of training, and in particular with the commitment and enthusiasm of the participants who positively engaged with the learning activities throughout the week.
Before giving an overview of each day of the module, it can be useful to summarise the S2A Sport Mobility Project and role of the European Course, as well as describing the profile of participants on the course.
> S2A Sport Mobility
The S2A Sport Mobility project, with the full title “Enhancing the skills of sport administrators through international learning mobility” is an initiative funded by the European Commission which has the main ambition to enhance the skills of sport administrators working in paid and volunteer roles, to contribute to the capacity building of their sport organisations and the development of the whole sport sector.
The project contributes to meeting the needs of the sport sector to invest in human capital and build capacity in sport organisations. It also promotes transregional cooperation and aims to enhance physical activity and health outcomes through effective sport administrators.
The project was developed to enhance learning mobility and increase cooperation between the European Union and Western Balkans, indeed over three-quarters of the participants on the European Course are from the Western Balkans with the rest from the European Union and the United Kingdom.
The project to develop the European Course is coordinated by the European Observatoire of Sport and Employment (EOSE) and is made up of a consortium of 8 partners including 3 National Olympic Committees, 3 universities and 2 European sport networks.
> Profile of the participants
The S2A partners took care of selection of participants with the targeted participant profile being around 20-35 years old and actively involved in the running of a sport organisation as a member of staff or a volunteer (e.g., a sport federation, a NOC, municipality, a sport club, a sport for all organisation, a sport council). It was also important for them to be motivated to learn, benefit from learning from other countries and strengthen their network of contacts at all levels, finally they had to be inspired to enhance their skills and play a more strategic role in their organisation or in the sport sector.
Of the 48 participants selected for the course 38 are from the Western Balkans and 10 from Europe. It is pleasing to note that an equal gender balance was achieved, with 24 male and 24 female participants.
Most of the participants had been in their role for les than 6 years which was exactly in line with the targeted profile as they could most benefit from the course and implement what they learn on the course to enhance their careers in sport.
> Module 1 Day 1
Monday began with introduction of the course team led by Course Director Kirstie Simpson, Associate Professor and Deputy Dean of the Chester Business School at University of Chester in the UK, and supported by Ben Gittus, Aurelien Favre and Geoff Carroll from EOSE. A welcome was also given by Professor Thierry Zintz, EOSE President and Emeritus Professor, Université Catholique de Louvain.
A general introduction to the course was provided to participants before Kirstie presented the course outcomes and approach for the course which centres on individual participation and critical thinking, developed through a variety of learning and teaching methods.
Group work is crucial to the course, using breakout rooms in Zoom, and the first task for groups involved participants getting to know each other and identifying principles for the course “Code of Conduct” which included trust, confidentiality, support, honesty and fun.
Kirstie then presented the plan for the week and the module learning outcomes. The main lecture content of day 1 focussed on definitions of strategy and strategic management, strategic planning, planning tools, and a simple hierarchy of strategic thinking including vision, mission, aims, objectives, monitoring and evaluation.
> Module 1 Day 2
Tuesday focussed on analysing the external environment and the concept of EVR Congruence which was dealt with through a series of lectures and group work sessions.
The highlight of day two was a panel session with senior leaders from sport in the Western Balkans discussing strategy and how they have developed and implemented strategy in their organisations which included National Olympic Committees and leadings sport federations. The panellists were Mr Stavri Bello (University of Tirana), Mr Sasho Popovski (Secretary General North Macedonia National Olympic Committee), and Mr Jeton Beqiri (President – Kosovo Table Tennis Federation).
> Module 1 Day 3
Wednesday explored the concept of stakeholder analysis and developed understanding of strategy types. Participants worked in groups to analyse the strategy of organisations in sport to see how they matched the concepts and learning gained so far on the course.
> Module 1 Day 4
Thursday was concerned with concepts of monitoring, evaluation, and performance measurement and management. Key terms were defined including the difference between inputs, outputs and outcomes. A further key theory which was presented was around the approach of developing a logic model.
The final session on day 4 was dedicated to guest input from Mark Cutajar CEO of Sport Malta who took part in a discussion with the Course Director to allow participants to understand the strategic journey and successes of recent years within Sport Malta as the key body for sport in Malta – this included their relationship to government and the importance of the whole team working in the same direction.
> Module 1 Day 5
The week concluded on Friday with sessions on communication and how to achieve “buy in” and support for strategy from internal and external stakeholders.
The final session of the week was delivered by guest lecturer Professor Thierry Zintz, EOSE President and Emeritus Professor, Université Catholique de Louvain. Thierry made a link with the next module on Effective Leadership and provided a lecture on Good Governance in Sport.
> Cultural exchange and mobility
One of the key rationales of the funding programme of the European Union which funds the European Course is to foster international transregional cooperation and sharing across borders. Although this would have taken place to a higher level had the course taken place in person, this crucial aspect was not forgotten in the online format.
On Wednesday participants from Albania took the floor to present to the group some cultural, culinary and sporting highlights from their country. This was then repeated by colleagues from Montenegro on Thursday and Wales on Friday.
> Looking forward
The course team and participants now look forward to module 2 on Effective Leadership (beginning 25th October) and module 3 on marketing and communications (beginning November 29). Module 1 was seen as a success by the course team and positive views have been gathered from participants through a post-module questionnaire. A major factor in the success of the course so far has been the atmosphere created by the participants who are committed to learning and working together to develop themselves and enhance their careers in sport.