Five case studies by teachers and coaches from across the world highlight tried and tested inclusion strategies to ensure that all are able to participate in sport.
This article focuses on five case studies of practising educators/coaches who have united to share their inclusion practices in PE and sport. These are shared below to highlight how a range of social variables such as age, ethnicity, disability, gender, and class have been supported. In this manner, a number of tried and tested inclusion strategies are revealed. Subsequently, these case studies have been analysed to draw out key themes, and these have been provided below via an infographic in the form of an inclusion framework model.
Dr Rachael Jefferson-Buchanan
Working as a PE teacher in the International School of Geneva for 13 years led me to reflect regularly on inclusive practice. Each day I faced an ethnically diverse group of students; our school had students from more than 100 nationalities. As the sole female teacher in the PE department, and the first female head of the department, I also considered myself to be a role model for teenage girls and a guide to their physical activity futures.
Thus, two particular social variables, ethnicity and gender, became ‘PE puzzles’ for me to resolve. With the former, I consulted with colleagues and students to broaden the existing British and American games that were provided. I created innovative PE schemes of work that had internationalism at their heart, introducing ‘new’ activities to challenge students and reduce the dominance of competitive team sports such as football, rugby, basketball, and softball. This had the surprising effect of ‘levelling the playing field’, by prompting all students to transfer their current games abilities into new learning spaces.
In terms of gender, I sought to feminise senior PE through a student survey that illuminated which activities they enjoyed and would like to engage in during PE lessons. The results encouraged me to transform the PE curriculum according to their interests, which in turn ensured a rapid rise in attendance and enjoyment levels amongst students. As educators, we must always seek to nourish teenage girls’ motivation by enabling choice, especially as women are already at risk worldwide for inactivity.).
Craig Gunn
As a PE teacher, community coach and more recently a coach educator, I believe there is a need for a holistic collaboration of pedagogical knowledge with the content knowledge of the coach/player, which is at the heart of Shulman’s (1987) educational reform. I have seen firsthand the ‘Coach Divide’ (Jones, 2006) where a club/community coach’s focus is primarily science and performance driven. This is juxtaposed with the more holistic, social, and emotional connections seen in the educational sphere (UNESCO, 2015; Usher, 2021).
In Rugby League clubs in lower socio-economic locations in Queensland, Australia, I nurture cultural safety and awareness in players of all ethnicities. Parents/carers of players have different cultural expectations from the coach and discipline at training. One such example was when playing in diverse groups comprising 70-85% Pasifika with the remaining being from Indigenous or Anglo-Celtic Australian backgrounds. Pre-game rituals were fitness based and included a prayer led by individual players on a rotating basis, regardless of spiritual beliefs. Interestingly, a coach’s didactic methods were respected more than learner-centred educational approaches, due to the desire to succeed.
On reflection, who am I to say this coaching style was outdated when there was a connection with the Pasifika players and the others were from patriarchal/matriarchal extended families? This reflection was further extended through conversations with parents who mentioned that there were times when players’ registration fees was given priority instead of household requirements.
Ty Buckley
Whilst coaching a variety of ages from 6-year-old children to 45-year-old adults, I encountered and overcame many inclusion-based issues. I was once coaching in a primary school in a deprived area, which had 22 different languages spoken across its cohort of students. In this case, I focused on deploying quality visual learning to help reduce this potential barrier to skill acquisition.
On another occasion, a new wheelchair-bound student joined my classes. To promote inclusion and enhance the child’s experience, I used different types of equipment and training processes, in consultation with them. This allowed the child to thrive and excel, where he once doubted himself. In removing these potential barriers, this child with disability can now see limitless opportunities to learn and understand that there are always solutions to problems. This should be a common practice amongst all PE staff and sport coaching facilitators.
My team of culturally diverse coaches and I also enjoy working with and inspiring many people with multi faiths and diverse backgrounds, as we are all united through a common love of cricket and a mutual desire to improve.
In addition to promoting inclusion for all, irrespective of ethnicity, class, age or ability, I focus on players’ mindsets, which is often overlooked. Encouraging a calm and controlled mindset enables the body to execute the skills learned in high-pressure situations on ground.
Through my experience of coaching, I continually grow and adapt my practices, in order to best assist the player(s) in front of me. I have found this to be the best solution for all parties involved.
Theresa Molemisi
I have been a PE teacher in the Middle East for the past 18 months. During the first 8 months here in Saudi Arabia I only taught girls. Few girls are involved in any type of physical activity or sport in the Arab culture, especially in the Middle East. Indeed, many girls believe physical education has no benefit to them; this is because of the social norms  in Arab culture. Traditionally women are encouraged to socialise with women, which often entails attending ladies only social gatherings. The older these girls become, the less they want to be physically active. The reason girls themselves do not opt for sports is due to their social conditioning – it is considered forbidden for girls in their culture.
In the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah where I teach PE, girls and boys are mixed until grade 4, and I have already noticed even at this young age that the girls are less physically active and their fundamental movement skills (FMS) are less proficient. Due to this, I offer more individualised support for skills enhancement learning to the girls using the ‘plan, prepare and anticipate’ strategy. The inclusion of girls in PE/sport in the Middle East could also be enhanced by increasing the number of female sportswomen as representatives. These role models would help us dismantle the gender, cultural and religious stereotypes associated with girls, encouraging them to move more and be regularly involved in physical activity.
Phil Mathe
Having worked across three continents as a physical educator and PE leader, I have seen firsthand the variety of demographics we encounter working within international education. Students come to us from vast arrays of cultures, ethnic backgrounds and with unique experiences of the world, which means their views on the world in which they live is more subjective. 
Building provisions for diverse groups requires a personalised focus for each student and an acceptance of their prior experience and understanding of their place within the world. This is always contextualised by the environment in which we deliver educational experiences, and no two PE programmes are the same as a result. Within each of the schools I have worked in, we have adopted a ‘needs-based approach’ and avoided the cliched one-size-fits-all approach for curriculum design. What worked for physically active Kenyans would be less than effective for Middle Eastern children who require a more holistic approach. 
This process starts with reflection, and then a picture of needs is captured, from which a bespoke curriculum is built. The activities we offer must have relevance and meaning and must consider gender, ethnicity, socio-economic background and culture. A traditional British curriculum of football, rugby, hockey etc., simply does not hold the same value in other parts of the world. Meeting the needs of our students within their context is an ever evolving and organic process. When we focus on students’ individual needs, curriculum provision can become a powerfully personal experience.
Regardless of who our students are, the backgrounds from which they come, or the individual circumstances that they bring with them, we have a duty as educators and coaches to provide meaningful and positive opportunities to build success in each of them. The five case studies above have illustrated a range of ways in which this has been made possible, and these are summarised below in a proposed inclusion framework model. We hope that this can be drawn upon by other physical educators and sports coaches to help facilitate more inclusive practices in their own contexts.
Jones, R. L. (2006). The sports coach as educator (p. 51). Taylor & Francis.
Shulman, L. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform. Harvard Educational Review, 57(1), 1-23.
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization [UNESCO] (2015). Quality physical education (QPE). Guidelines for policy-makers. UNESCO Publishing.
Usher, W. (2021). Australia's national rugby league's player development framework: Evaluating strategies (2019). Journal of Human Sport and Exercise, 16(3), 541-569.
World Health Organization [WHO]. (2020). Physical activity.
Rachael is currently a lecturer in Human Movement Studies (Health and PE) at Charles Sturt University (CSU), New South Wales, Australia. She has an international career spanning more than three decades, as a teacher, lecturer, and consultant in PE. During this time, she has been regularly involved in inclusion-focused PE/sport projects with Cambridge International Education Assessment (CAIE), UNICEF, UNESCO, and Montrose.
[email protected] 
Craig has a Master of Education and is a physical education teacher. He has coached both in the education system and at community clubs and performance spheres. He is passionate about coach development and supporting grassroots learner development.
[email protected]    
Ty is the owner and founder of All-round Cricket Coaching in northeast England, which is currently witnessing exponential growth through digital platforms nationwide. He has 20 years’ experience of coaching in schools, clubs, and many diverse community settings.
[email protected]
Theresa is an internationally qualified rowing coach, a PE teacher, and personal trainer. She gained her Diploma in Sport Management at University of Johannesburg, and subsequently studied for a PGCE at University of South Africa. She is currently pursuing her MBA in Healthcare Management at Geneva Business School, Switzerland, whilst teaching PE in the Ras Al Khaimah America Academy in the United Arab Emirates.
[email protected] 
Phil Mathe is an International physical educator with a decade of experience working in PE across the world. With a BA in Sport Science from St Mary’s University, London, and an MA in Education from the University of Northampton in the UK. Phil focuses his research and work on the provision of success-driven PE that meets the needs of all students in a holistic and contextual way. Phil is the author of the 2022 book Happiness factories – success driven approaches to holistic physical education.
[email protected]e
Except where otherwise noted, this site is licensed under a Creative Commons License.