Diversity as a compulsory subject for sports students – and a whole week of diversity

Diversity in sport has long been a marginalized topic and is now regarded as a key competence, making it a compulsory subject for students at the German Sports University in Cologne. The “Week of Diversity” also takes place here together with the University of Cologne. And not just with feel-good topics.

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All students of the five bachelor’s degree programmes must complete the “Diversity Competence in Sport” module at the Cologne Sports University. Power, exclusion and inequality are addressed as well as one’s own identity and attitude in the context of a diverse society and practical concepts of diversity. This year, many of them presented their diversity project results.

A Diversity Week with a provocative symposium on ‘Diversity in Sport’

Instead of a single Diversity Day, the University and the Sports University of Cologne offered around 50 events as part of the fourth ‘Diversity Week”. Numerous open courses covered a variety of topics such as intersexuality, inclusive language, women in science or gender mainstreaming in schools. Films, readings and workshops addressed blind football fans or the future of the university from the perspective of Diversity & Inclusion.

In the context of a symposium on ‘Diversity in Sport’, almost 100 interested people from the sports university dealt primarily with the topics of migration and sexual orientation. Students from three diversity competence seminars presented results from their project work in various formats (panel discussions, posters, podcasts, short films).

Diversity in sport: twenty thoroughly critical questions and perspectives

The study projects dealt in a scientific way with topics such as homophobia in sport in general, in ball sports, among sports fans, in everyday life or even at university. Other projects focused on role models or ideal images in sport, integration through sport and diversity strategies of sporting goods manufacturers or sports associations.

A comparison between the British Football Association and the German Football Association showed, for example, that the DFB’s measures against homophobia (e.g. the information brochure “Football and Homosexuality”) are far from being in line with the Football Association’s strategy, which was developed in exchange with politicians and LGBT associations and reports annually on (mis)successes. A further analysis shows that the sports of hockey and volleyball did not pursue any significant measures or strategies to combat homophobia either.

A survey of club sportsmen and women with a migration background (of the 2nd generation) showed how much they felt like Germans and yet occasionally had to struggle with provocations.

Keynote on diversity in sport: talents, respect, exemplary behaviour and self-reflection

The D&I Engineer Michael Stuber, who opened the symposium with a keynote speech, illustrated that there is still a need for action on many levels of diversity in sport. While diversity in team sports is obvious, in many cultures not enough is done to discover or even promote talents outside the respective dominant sports. The diversity guru described esteem and cohesion as a success factor especially for team sports. This could not only celebrate successes, but also enhance their reputation. Stuber also applied his evidence-based model for Unconscious Biases to the sports sector and showed which similarity mechanisms, reservations and assessment errors as well as monocultures would have a negative impact on the fulfilment of orders in sport. Here it would also be important to question implicit norms and recognise different meanings of sport for diverse social groups.

Provocative panel discussion on homosexuality in football

A staged panel discussion, in which students slipped into roles of different stakeholders, impressively conveyed the controversial perspectives on “Homophobia in football – the eternal game of hide-and-seek”. With pointed scripts, the actors succeeded in depicting even inappropriate utterances realistically – unfortunately also the lack of punishment or exhaustion.

The measures of the sports university are given an exemplary character by the combination of three elements

  • Consistent mainstreaming of diversity into free teaching – according to Humboldt – and thus into a core task of the university.
  • voluntary and high-profile mechanisms
  • Working on conflict-prone topics.