A collaboration model for sports clubs and schools

Written by Arne Öhlknecht & Stefanie Peichler (SPORTUNION Steiermark / Austria) and Anita Ahlstrand & Pekka Anttila, (Metropolia UAS / Finland)

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All youngsters should have possibility to participate in a pleasing hobby. New ways to build up the collaboration between actors and reach the youngsters are needed. This blog describes how the sports clubs can together with schools offer equal opportunities and low-threshold sporting activities for all youngsters and why it is a win-win situation.               

Sport is one of the most popular leisure-time activities among youngsters and one of the most important environments for youngster’s socialization. Sports clubs and young athletes have become an important target for different kind of societal interventions in relation to health. Inspiring hobbies can prevent exclusion and be a way to help marginalized youngsters. 

Participating in sports club activities has many positive outcomes. However, all the youngsters are still not having equal opportunities to participate in organized sports. There is a great need of easy accessible and low-threshold hobbies and activities. Equal opportunities to participate in sporting activities give feeling of connection with the age group and support e.g. youngsters‘ self-esteem and development.

This model of cooperation between school and sport club provides an equal opportunity for EVERY youngster to participate in sport and it is widely used in Austria.

 It represents:

  • an easy and cheap way to find a preferred sport
  • a means of drop-out prevention from sports in general
  • promotes youngster’s personal health and comprehensive well-being 

Win-win situation for everyone

Bringing youngsters to do sports, keeping them motivated and prevent them from dropping out of sports is one of the great challenges of today. The ideal setting to reach all youngsters is the school. 

A cooperation between school and sports club establishes a direct link between youngsters, school and sports club, and enables youngsters to get to know the coach and her/his range of sporting activities in a very easy and cheap way. 

The school, as a building and community, plays a key role in providing sporting activities. 

  • It is for many youngsters a safe, accessible and familiar environment. 
  • It has great facilities to organize sporting activities in the afternoons. 
  • It is a place where the various actors, in good collaboration and with a shared vision, promote the growth, inclusion, well-being and equality of children and young people. 

The sports club is always a part of a community. To strengthen the community action, it is important for sports clubs to collaborate with schools. On the other hand, the other actors in the community should see sports clubs as possible partners through which to develop the community work of health promotion. At the same time, more opportunities appear for sports activities, both in and outside schools.

Some youngsters feel that hobbies cost too much and are too far away from home.  There is also a great need for more groups for the beginners. Getting to know sporting activities, for example during or directly after the school day, is one way to reduce young people’s prejudices and make them more interested in sporting activities.

In collaboration between a sports club and school, EVERY youngster has the equal opportunity to participate in sport and exercise. It represents an easy way to find a sports club and to feel comfortable doing sports.

“I like doing sports directly after school with my friends from the class and I do not even need to go far, because the coach is coming to our sportshall next to the school.” 

(Sarah, 11 years old)

Sport, among other hobbies, combines friendship, self-development, discovering one’s own strengths, or interacting with an adult. It offers a possibility to feel relatedness, to have the right to choose and make one´s own decisions.

Friends are important to youngsters who have no previous experiences in hobby activities. Friends support and motivate youngsters in a new situations. Targeting sporting activities to all youngsters is very important from the perspective of preventing early intervention and exclusion.

8 practical steps for organizing the win-win situation

  1. Get in touch with the school near the headquarter of the sports club 
  2. Present them your plan; is it going to be in the morning in regular class (this asks for more organizational effort in the class’ schedule) or in the afternoon after the schoolday.
  3. Plan the weekly date and time schedule together; sports activities should be available every week during the whole school year 
  4. Agree the size of the group and the costs.
  5. School sends out the information to the parents and/or organize a parents evening – this is a good opportunity for the coach to meet the parents as well.
  6. Organize free trial sessions and meet the youngsters, discuss with them and ask their wishes.
  7. Take the wishes into account and plan the sporting activities to be suitable, motivational and safe for all youngsters. You can read more of the coach as enabler HERE
  8. Ask regularly feedback from the youngster, school and parents to develop the sporting activities.

The importance of collaborations between school and sports clubs is to create a safe and motivational network for the youngsters.

The sports club organizes sporting activities in the school and directly after the school in order to make it even easier for the athlete to continue to do sports. Attention should also be paid to the content and quality of coaching in order to motivate and engage youngsters in sporting activities.

Who is paying for what?

Coaches do invest a lot of time into the sports lessons in the school and therefore they need to be payed to a certain point.  There are various different possibilities depending on opportunities of the school, parents, sports club and municipals: 

  • parents 
  • parent council
  • school budget
  • municipal/city subsidized sports activities

What are the benefits for a sports club?

  • reaching all youngsters, also those who maybe do not want or have the possibilities to come to the sports club training sessions in the first place
  • good possibility to promote the sports and the sports club’s activities
  • good scouting possibility for the coach 
  • building up a relationship and communication with the youngsters, school, parents and municipality

“We cooperate with schools in order to reach as many youngsters as possible in a structured way and to keep as many young adults as active as possible. With this cooperation, we are building the ideal bridge to the school. Many youngsters find their way to the club and stay with us.” 

(Oliver, coach of girls´ handball U13 team from the UHC Graz)

What are the benefits for the school?

  • Well-trained and highly educated coaches teach youngsters to have fun and enjoy sports together with other youngsters. 
  • increase the number of sporting activities – in addition to the physical education lessons that are mandatory in the school
  • If young adults do more sporting activities, they are more balanced in the daily life, are more stress resistant and they can concentrate better at school.
  • possibility of offering a variation of different sports offers by collaborating with many sports clubs 
  • competitive advantage over other schools; more sporting activities and collaboration makes the school “more attractive”

“Through this collaboration we get qualified and reliable coaches with a high emotional sports factor to the school, who understand perfectly how to inspire our youngsters to do physical activity and sport and to keep them in it. This additional offer enables us to regularly increase our youngsters’ exercise times and offers an attractive balance to sedentary lifestyle.”

(Mrs. Eder, school principal)

What are the benefits for the families?

  • more balanced and stress resistant youngsters
  • young adults are able to study more efficient when they do more sports 
  • less driving time and distance to bring the youngster to the training 
  • safe environment to do the sporting activities in school
  • highly qualified coaching for their children
  • optional possibilities of different sports
  • sporting activities during the school day will increase the family time.

“My child is definitely more balanced. It helps us a lot, that we don’t have to drive our children to the training somewhere else, because it’s taking place directly in the school building.” 

(Mr Trummer, father of a  13 year old)

What are the benefits for the municipality?

  • competitive advantage over other municipalities that do not have that many schools with a wise variety of sporting possibilities 
  • health promotion for young adults
  • well-functioning and well-positioned sports clubs with a lot members are contributing to the social life in the community
  • possible future of “professional athletes” could be a good reputation for the municipalities  

“For me it is very important that the youngsters are staying in sports and physical activity. It it important to set a milestone already in the early age in order to have a healthy life. Children are our future and can also function as role model for the adults!” 

(Mayor of Floing, municipal in styria/austria)

Sportunion Steiermark is a service center for its sports clubs. It has over 700 active member sports clubs and therefore it is an important sport provider in the society. It provides support in a variety of different matters: the foundation of the club, legal affairs, questions of financial, tax and insurance issues, funding of constructions and sports funding, support with event organisation etc. Sportunion Steiermark organized annually 40 different coach educations and workshops to cover a broad range of different sport disciplines. 


Stefanie  is working as an project coordinator at SPORTUNION Steiermark and gets inspired by working for the bigger goal; help people to find their favourite sport and bring them to the sports clubs. Her strengths come from living her prayers – work life balance and sport help her to be creative and focused at the job and excite others with her optimism.

Arne is working as an project coordinator in health and recreational sports at SPORTUNION Steiermark and is inspired by the energy of working with different people together to make people move. He sees it as an call to give EVERYONE the possibility to benefit from the health enhancing effect of sports. 

Anita is working as Senior Lecturer in Metropolia University of Applied Sciences and gets inspired of meeting new people, learning new things and long walks in the nature. Her strengths comes from endless curiosity, crazy creativity and positive pedagogy.

Pekka is working as Senior Lecturer in Metropolia University of Applied Sciences and is interested in applying the research to grassroot activities. Pekka is motivated by the development and implementation of new innovations and operating models through collaboration. He takes care of his own well-being by mountain biking and by playing football and disc golf.


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