Developing young people
A 2019 study by the Youth Sport Trust, found sport and physical activity has a huge impact on children's wellbeing. Those who regularly participate in team sports perform better academically and display a greater sense of respect for themselves and others. The study also suggests sport helps children develop essential life-skills that will ease their transition into the 'adult' world, including teamwork and empathy.
And here's the best part: research found the same outcomes within groups of students who played sports competitively and recreationally. In other words, it really is the taking part that matters.
Unfortunately, not all young people have the same level of access to sporting facilities. That's why organizations such as Common Goal are doing everything they can to give these young people a chance to participate in sport. Funded by donations from some of football's biggest stars, such as Juan Mata, Jurgen Klopp, and Women's World Cup winner Megan Rapinoe, Common Goal supports global sporting initiatives to promote inclusion and opportunity for all. Recent projects include Slum Soccer, a community-led project to help India's street children into education through sport.
Promoting gender equality
Yasmeen Shabsough winner of the AISTS 2021 Athlete Scholarship was 13 when she was selected to represent Jordan’s first U-14s female national team. But even then, there was a sense that football 'wasn't for girls' - and it certainly wasn't a viable career option. "In the beginning, being a girl who plays football in Jordan was not accepted by people," says Yasmeen. "They did not believe that a young girl can play football, nor that she should." But as Yasmeen traveled the world and met other young female footballers, she realized there was a different way of doing things. So she eventually became involved with Equal Playing Field - an initiative that promotes gender equality in sport.
Since then, Yasmeen has (quite literally) reached new heights in her quest to empower young women. “We climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and played there, breaking the world record for the highest football match,” she explains.
Yasmeen is now doing her Master of Advanced Studies in Sport Administration and Technology degree. She hopes this will be a stepping stone toward a career in a major sport organization like FIFA or the International Olympic Committee. “I believe AISTS is the door opener. The rest lies in my hands,” she says.
She also has some advice for those who want to follow in her footsteps: "To the women and girls wanting to play football, it's never too late. Don't let anyone doubt your abilities because you're a girl."
Sport prepares us for success off the field
Sport is a great way to maintain physical health. However, scientists are becoming increasingly aware of its importance to our mental health, especially when it comes to cultivating positive habits.
Taking part in sport can help us create a more positive and resilient mindset that can help us on and off the pitch. In a recent paper titled Role of Sports in the Development of an Individual, Dr. Rakesh Ghildiyal writes, "Sport is a learning experience. Of all who take up sports only one may eventually become a champion, but definitely all will be winners. It builds character, develops strategic thinking, leadership skills, and goal setting.”
Alice Ronchetti represented the Italian softball team during her ten-year career. As a Future Female Leader Sport Scholarship winner at AISTS, she wants to use the skills she learnt on the field to enable others to fulfill their sporting and personal ambitions. "As athletes, we need to recognize that the experience we gained over the years is not just a beautiful memory but a competitive advantage and an asset," she says. "I aspire to have a job that can have a positive impact on society, allowing me to advocate the greater values of sport. By doing so, I hope to continuously inspire others to pursue careers in sport."
From Jesse Owens winning four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic Games to Tommie Smith's raised fist during the medal ceremony at the 1986 games, the history of sport is full of iconic moments that forged a new conversation about inclusion, equality, and tolerance. In more recent times, world-famous athletes like Serena Williams have used their sport as a platform to keep these crucial conversations going. Serena, arguably the greatest female tennis player of all time, has been a vocal advocate of social justice causes, including racial equality and equal pay for women.
Icons such as Owens and Williams have paved the way for a new generation of athletes from underrepresented groups, giving them the opportunity and confidence to participate in sports traditionally only available to a privileged few. Ibtihaj Muhammad is one of these trailblazers. In 2016, she became the first American Muslim woman to win an Olympic medal in fencing. Then there's Mariah Stackhouse, one of the few black golf players on the LPGA golf tour.
Samira Asghari, an AISTS MAS Class of 2021 participant and current member of the IOC, is another pioneer who's been overcoming stereotypes and adversity her entire life. After the Taliban assumed power in her native Afghanistan, Samira and her family fled to Iran. Samira then became interested in martial arts before becoming the captain of the high school girls' basketball team. As an adult, Samira played for the Afghanistan Women's National Basketball team, captaining the side in 2019. She's now studying for a Master of Advanced Studies in Sport Administration and Technology degree in Lausanne, Switzerland.
"If I had to describe the education I get at the AISTS that's one word: I'm blessed to be student at the AISTS," she asserts. "The AISTS provides this opportunity to professionally understand the sport ecosystem and almost the entire entities of the sport world which is awesome! I think to know and learn about sport and its true spirit, the AISTS is the one because I found it a holistic and proficient academy. AISTS' existence is an achievement and I am proud to be their student."
"My future plan within sport is to target the legacy of sport on how to transfer or hand it to generations in a steady way and to empower communities, especially women, through sport. Fortunately, as it is well said by the IOC's "Olympism is a philosophy of life", I feel we can also refer this 'philosophy of life' to sport as whole. It places sport at the service of humanity. Sport connects and unites people unbelievably.
"Afghanistan is a war-torn country which is a good example of how sport positively impacts societies, Afghanistan is suffering for decades from different types of wars; civil war and another war which started 20 years ago against terrorism which still continues and leaves victims every day. The only element which successfully united and integrated our society is sport. It gives a sense of solidarity and humanity after each victory from Afghan sports teams in the field of play in international competitions. Sport also encourages youth to take part in the betterment and improvement of their societies."
The International Academy of Sport Science and Technology (AISTS)
Located in Lausanne, Switzerland, the AISTS is a non-profit organization that prepares its participants for a career in sport management through its Master in Advanced Studies. The school was set up by eight prestigious institutions, including the International Olympic Committee (IOC), to produce graduates with the skills to succeed at the highest level of sport management and administration.
Thomas Bach, the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), says, "AISTS routinely produces highly-trained graduates, many of whom have gone on to play leading roles in the world of sport."
Marely Flores is just one of AISTS' many success stories. The former AISTS MAS student is now the Women's Football Tournament Manager at FIFA. She believes AISTS was the perfect platform to launch her dream career. "The program was one of the best years of my life," she says. "I was surrounded by people that shared the passion [for sport]. It turned out to be exactly what I needed to get into the sport industry.”
Then there's Tina Sharma, a former award-winning sports journalist, news anchor, and television producer who was recently hired as Head of Communication & PR at the International University Sports Federation (FISU). She moved from New Delhi, India, to Lausanne in 2017 for the Master in Advanced Studies, leaving behind her successful career in order to pursue her dream of a career in sport.
“It was AISTS or nothing, for me,” she says. “I knew I wanted to work in global sport, in the Olympic capital, for an international sports federation. No other program in the world offered me those possibilities. For me, what sets the AISTS MAS program apart from all the other leading sports management programs in the world, is the fact that it is in Lausanne, nestled in the midst of all the International Federations that govern sports”.
Ranked No.1 Sports Management Masters in the world, The AISTS Master of Advanced Studies (MAS) in International Sport Management and Technology is a great choice for anyone looking to pursue or advance a career in sport. This unique postgraduate program starts with nine months of classroom-based lectures and activities, where students learn about sport law, medicine, management, and economics. After that, students complete two months of work experience within the sport industry before focusing on their final research papers. AISTS accepts between 35 to 45 participants every year, with enrolments in November, February, and June.
So what are you waiting for? Shoot the starting gun on your career in sports today!
Article written in association with the International Academy of Sport Science and Technology (AISTS).