written by

Michael Woods (He/Him)

How our habits influence inclusion in sport

We all have habits, right. Some good, some not so good. But, have you ever stopped to think about how habits work and how your habits might impact inclusion?

In this post you will learn:

  • How habits work (and how to break a bad one)
  • How habits relate to inclusion in sport
  • How to identify habits that influence inclusion in your sports club or organisation

At the end of the post I will also provide you with some handy resources to help you better understand and address habits that influence inclusion in sport.

How habits work

Brushing your teeth, this is a good habit. It's something we do every morning and every evening to take care of our dental hygiene. The mid-afternoon visit to the vending machine for your get-me-through-to-knock-off-time chocolate bar... perhaps not such a good habit. Going to the gym, kissing your partner goodnight before bed, checking the air pressure in your tires before a road trip, the 10:15 coffee, scrolling through your social media apps first thing in the morning, the Wednesday night bottle of Shiraz, these are all habits that serve us well or not so well in life.

Some time ago my good friend Peter Downs (Manager at Play by the Rules, Founder of The Inclusion Club and all round great guy) put me onto a book all about habits. It's called The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. In this book Duhigg explores the cause of habits and how we can break them and shape them.

Watch Charles explaining how habits work in the video below.

How do habits relate to inclusion in sport?

Well, have you ever thought about how your habits influence the world around you? How your habits influence inclusion in sport?

There are many things we do day-to-day as individuals in our roles in sport and as organisations that either encourage inclusion or they don't, these too are habits. Sometimes they are obvious and easy to identify but others are more subtle, more hidden.

Some habits come out in our behaviours and attitudes while some are embedded deeply in rules and polices. If we can identify what these inclusive or exclusive habits are, understand how and why they happen, then we can take steps to make changes that enables and promotes inclusion. So what does a good inclusive habit look like? Here’s a few examples:

  • Your club or organisation has a clear policy and process in place that addresses discrimination, vilification and harassment and members are regularly informed about it.
  • At least one person is allocated responsibility for addressing inclusion issues in the club and they are involved in important decision making.
  • Coaches are willing to adapt and modify their activities to meet the needs of all participants.
  • All new members are inducted into the club and given the opportunity to discuss and address any needs they may have.
  • Facilities and equipment meets the needs of all participants and are well maintained and regularly upgraded.
  • Community partnerships are fostered and regularly involved in club activities.
  • Discrimination, harassment and bullying is actively discouraged and any instance is called out and address straight away.

There are many, many more. Let's now have a think about some the habits your club or organisation might have that influences inclusion.

How to identify habits that influence inclusion

In order to take action on inclusion we need to make change, we need do things differently we need to change our habits. Before we can things though we need to identify the things we do and don’t do that might influence inclusion in our sports clubs or organisations. This isn’t always an easy task because sometimes we aren’t fully aware of the things we do.

Here is a very simple process you can use to help identify some of the good or bad habits you and your club or organisation might have when it comes to inclusion.

Usually good habits are recognised when you are achieving positive outcomes – people feel valued, safe and welcome. While on the other hand bad habits lead to less positive outcomes – people feel undervalued, unsafe, unwelcome.

To identify the habits at the root of these outcomes all we have to do is ask. So start by simply asking members (or past members) whether or not they feel valued, safe and welcome in your sports club or organisation. Then go deeper by asking what are things you do that make them feel this way. This question can be asked from the perspective of you as an individual (if you are a coach, club committee member for example) or collectively as a club community or organisation. More broadly reaching out to community partners or other stakeholders to ask the same thing could yield some useful insights.

Ideally you get a positive response, so identify the things you do and keep doing them! This is your desired outcome. If the response is not so positive identify the actions at the root and think about how you can change this habit. This might mean changing your rules, policies and practices. It may mean rethinking the way you talk about or approach certain issues. It may mean you need to start doing something new that you haven't done in the past. What ever you discover make sure you don’t go on the defensive and make excuses. Instead seek to understand the issue and work positively to make the necessary changes.

Oh and by the way, don't do this as a one off, do it regularly...make it a habit.

Next steps

It's your turn to take action. Here's what you need to do now.

  1. Get a copy of The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg at this link.
  2. Read my post 7 Pillars of inclusion. Using commonalities as the start point for inclusive sport to go deeper with this topic.
  3. Ask your members and community partners about your habits.
  4. Share what you discovered in the ISD Community! What are some of the good habits? What are some of the not so good habits and what can you do to change them?

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