In an instant COVID-19 pushed the world into a new reality. For at-risk children and communities this has been particularly challenging. The power of social play – such an important development tool – was all but halted. The Sports Creative adapted to support the coaches we have trained as they lead their programs against the odds in marginalized communities. Here’s what we’ve been up to.

To begin this journey, we must take into account that every community we serve has been on lockdown since March and according to our experience, these communities have been hit most acutely by secondary impact. This includes restriction on movement, and of course play, lack of access to key services and supplies – inclusive of fresh food, healthcare, education, and legal support for families. Many kids find that multiple family members have lost jobs, informal work has been halted. When you bundle this together the impact has been traumatic for many families and substance dependency has increased as a consequence. Sadly, this has led to an increase in stress situations and risk situations including abuse. 

Stronger together

In the communities we serve we responded swiftly and constructively in support of the 21 coaches we have trained across the programs. We recognized that staying at home and COVID-avoidance measures were critical and supported the coaches to share these messages with the youth in the program. To do this safely and socially distanced meant supporting the coaches to set up digital networks – most notably through whatsapp. The challenge we faced was that coaches often don’t have access to phones or data – in which instances we have financially supported them. Once communications networks were in place, we supported the coaches to: 

  1. ‘Check in’ on and support youth at-risk in talking through their experiences
  2. Create isolation wellness activities (physical & mental for the home)
  3. Share learning and build support partnerships – connecting to supportive local organizations

From the beginning, the children have been asking when they can return to the fields, they have been hugely patient. Now as government decisions permit, we are seeing our communities slowly open up across the board. The Sports Creative is working with each set of coaches to create general guidelines. 

We have listed these guidelines below. We welcome feedback and shared learning with other organizations serving communities across the world. One lesson we have learnt from COVID-19 is that even apart, we are stronger together. 

Thank you, 

Lisbeth Custodio

Program Manager


General Guidelines

Follow Government guidelines

In each country the Government have guidelines on group activity and exercise

Communications remains key

An adequate system of communication with all participants. Regular updating of information. Ensuring coaches and the community have adequate data and equipment to communicate. Clear guidelines on how training sessions will operate. 

Rules for the field

  1. Each participant communicated with ahead of training – rules of participation
  2. Limit entry to the facilities exclusively to users and/or coaches subject to established sports and/or art schedules
  3. All users must bring their personal items (water bottles, towels) to classes rather than being shared as previously
  4. Registration system on entry – masks & antibacterial gel mandatory
  5. Mandatory mask use before and after class 
  6. Temperature taking at the entrance of the facilities of all users
  7. People with a temperature higher than 37 degrees Celsius will not participate in the activities of that day and their families must be informed. Same if someone has any symptoms related to the disease 
  8. Any training tools must be disinfected before and after each use
  9. Activities that do not involve contact between users and/or trainers
  10. Activities which maintain social distance of at least 1 meter away 
  11. Division of groups to a maximum of 10 users in total per section 
  12. Avoid competitions/tournaments which will lead to large gatherings 
  13. Antibacterial gel mandatory when leaving
  14. Participants to report any symptoms post-training


Coaches will be equipped with relevant resources such as: thermometers, antibacterial gel and masks. Coaches are supported to plan each training session ahead of time. 


The pandemic is not over. Lockdown may return. The coaches are ready to return to lockdown rules and our above response strategy.



Young adult leaders have an incredible capacity to inspire children and youth in their community. As coaches on and off the field, they can be powerful role-models offering a safe and reliable presence. A positive example is both inspiring and replicable, leading to a powerful and sustainable process of community development. For marginalized youth who have been failed by adults and society, this is especially powerful:

“engaging and transformative youth-adult relationships exert the greatest impact on youth who are the most marginalized. This pattern of differential impact demonstrates that the factors that contribute to resilience, such as engagement, are contextually sensitive. For youth with the fewest resources, engagement may influence their life trajectories more than for youth with greater access to support.” (Unger, 2013)

Resilience is a key word in our process, we don’t view resilience as an individual quality, but instead a quality of the interaction between individuals and their environments. The benefits of youth-adult partnerships are realized for marginalized youth when specific conditions that promote interactions that contribute to resilience are created. That is what the Sports Creative is all about. 

“It is for this reason that resilience can be defined as the individual’s ability to navigate to resources, as well as the capacity of the individual’s environment to provide resources that protect the child in ways that are meaningful” (Ungar, 2008).

Safe play, fun and a therapeutic environment, offer each young person the safety, play, support and confidence that every child should have in their community.

Coaches on & off the field

Every life has value, but for millions of young people around the world, society and daily life are proving otherwise. It doesn’t have to be this way.

We believe every young person should have access to the power of play in their community. We create community-led sports & arts programs for at-risk youth, supporting their physical, social, and emotional well-being. Our unique model equips local leaders with the tools they need to define, deliver, and sustain powerful programs in the heart of their community. Our process creates a therapeutic environment, where youth are able to detach from their problems, build supportive relationships – all whilst learning valuable life-skills.

Our methodology for training the coaches follows key youth development themes beginning with inclusive safe play and covering mentoring, leadership, gender equity, creativity, positive cultural reflection, a commitment to youth voices, goal-setting, and teamwork.

We are currently training two coaches in Valle de Chalco, Mexico, seven coaches in La Romana, Dominican Republic, five coaches in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic as part of an incredible partnership with love.fútbol and the Pincus Family Foundation. We also provide support and guidance to three coaches at Street Child United Brazil (SCUB) who run a football for development program for children in Complexo da Penha – one of Rio de Janeiro’s most violent communities (favelas).

We believe every child should have access to safe play in their community. If you believe in the unique power of sports and the arts, we’d love to talk!

Joe Hewitt