written by

Michael Woods (He/Him)

Fundamentals of inclusive sport programs

When it comes to delivering successful inclusive sport programs there are a handful of really important things that make the difference between being successful or not so successful, and it all starts with the planning.

These ‘things’, or what I like to call ‘elements’, are defined in the Inclusive Sport Design Program Planning Framework, which I published as an e-book back in 2017. (You can find the e-book here)

What you will learn:

  • I will share with you the 5 fundamental elements for successful inclusive sport programs
  • How to apply the 5 fundamental elements in your program planning

Plus I will sign-post you to some supporting resources to help you take action.

What are the Fundamental Elements of Inclusive Sport Programs?

The fundamental elements are the core aspects that we need focus on when it comes to addressing the community engagement aspects of program delivery, which are so important for achieving an inclusion outcome. They are:

  1. Networks - the people and organisations involved
  2. Knowledge - the skills and awareness people involved need to have
  3. Activity - what people will be participating in
  4. Links - moving participants to the next step or option
  5. Place - the facility and community you are delivering in

Read on to learn more about each element.


Addressing Networks in the program planning process is all about involving the right people to make it happen.

Ensuring the right individuals and organisations are involved can be the difference between success and failure. Your network will consist of the people and organisations with a role in delivering your program. Your network could be large or small, but what’s important is that they all support and work towards a clear and common goal. The network must clearly understand the contribution they are making to your programs success.

To take action on this you can ask yourself:

  1. Who do I need to involve to make it happen?
  2. What role will they play?

To learn more about establishing good and effective networks to support your sport programs read the blog posts below.


Knowledge is power. In the program planning process Knowledge is all about building capacity through education and awareness. Increasing the capabilities and confidence of the people and organisations involved in your program will empower them to deliver on the outcomes you are looking for. It builds capacity in the place you deliver your activity, which contributes to sustainability.

The goal here should be to ensure that the program can be maintained or that the program is no longer required in order to achieve the outcomes.

To take action on this ask yourself:

  • What skills and awareness do we have? (you could conduct a Training Needs analysis)
  • What additional knowledge do we need? (you could ask your staff/volunteers what they feel they need to know)
  • How do we fill the skills and awareness gaps? (explore training, certifications or even mentoring)

From there you can determine actions needed to build the knowledge of people involved in delivering your program.


In the program planning process our goal is to deliver an activity that offers a positive experience and reflects the participant needs.

The activity is generally the focal point of the program however is no more or less important than the other elements. Your activity could be anything as long as it is representative of your sports experience and its fun! You may have an existing program activity or you might be planning new activities. Either way a successful inclusive activity relies on understanding the needs and wants of participants and then, if required, making appropriate adaptations and modifications in order to cater for those needs.

To take action on this you can ask yourself:

  • What do our target participants want to do?
  • What are the individual needs of our target participants?
  • How will we ensure this is a positive experience?

To learn more about designing inclusive sport activities I suggest you read the following blog posts.


In the program planning process Links is all about facilitating transition to ongoing participation either within your program or other options and pathways beyond your program. Ensuring your initiative enables transition to ongoing participation is vital. One off activities like ‘come-and-try’ days are only truly effective if those participants can be converted to some form of ongoing engagement. After all don't we want more people playing sport more often? Understanding and then actively linking participants to the next step will ensure you achieve a successful engagement outcome.

To take action on this you can ask yourself:

  • What is the next step for our participants?
  • Where do we direct participants?
  • What information do we need to provide?
  • How can we facilitate transition?

Defining answers to these questions will help you formulate a plan to link your program participants to ongoing participation in your sport.


In the program planning process Place is all about understanding the community you are in. Where we deliver our activities is integral to what we deliver (our activity) and who we deliver it with (our networks) and who we deliver it for (our participants).

Place is as much about the physical facility where we host our activity as much as it is about the geographical location. Of course the facility must meet the needs of the activity and participant accessibility however understanding things like local population and demographics, transport links and community services may influence your planning. Delivering in the right place is vital to your programs long-term success.

To take action on this ask yourself:

  • Are you servicing a single facility or a larger region?
  • What does the population look like?
  • Are our target participants in this place?
  • What kind of facility do I need to deliver the activity?
  • How do participants get to and inside the facility?

Answering these questions will help you create a plan to ensure you know the community you are delivering in so that you increase your chances of engaging your target participants into your programs activity.


So there you have it, the 5 fundamental elements of effective inclusive sport programs. Now of course there is more to this and there are some specific actions you can take in relation to each of the elements. So if you would like to take your sport programs to the next level when it comes to inclusion then I have something for you. (read on)

Next steps

Want to plan and deliver more effective and sustainable inclusive sport programs?

Over the 15+ years of working in sport and recreation I have observed and implemented many inclusive sport programs. This is the basis for my program design approach, part of which I have shared with you in this post.

So that you can share in this knowledge and experience, I created the Planning Effective Inclusive Sport Programs course to assist you to better plan and deliver sport programs where inclusion is the outcome.

The Planning Effective Inclusive Sport Programs course is your how-to-guide for planning community sport programs that support your diversity and inclusion objectives. In this course we will explore strategies that you can use when planning your sport programs to ensure sustainable inclusion success. Not only that, you will also take steps towards actually putting these strategies into action.

Ultimately, this course will help you to plan new sport programs from scratch and review and refine existing programs to make them more effective when it comes to engaging and retaining participants that reflect the diversity in the community. The best thing is you will learn a framework and planning process that you can apply over and over again, for any target market, in any location at any level.

If you are responsible for the planning and delivery of community engagement activities using sport - at any level, in any type of organisation - then this course is for you.

So I invite you to check out the course information here and if you think it can assist you in your role planning and delivering inclusive sport programs please consider enrolling!

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Inclusive Sport Design acknowledges the Gundungurra and Tharawal people who are the custodians of the land where we work and live. Gundungurra and Tharawal people have strong connection to the Wingecarribee, Wollondilly and Nattai rivers through culture, dreaming and songlines. We pay respect to their elders past, present and emerging.