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17.02.2021 - Ausgabe: 1/2021

Integrated sport development planning – an old/new method of promoting urban exercise spaces

By Prof. Heiner Haass, Anhalt University of Applied Sciences

© photobank / stock.adobe.com

Exercise is important and it is more than appropriate to point out that humans have been designed to move. Daily exercise is thus essential – and the consequences of lack of exercise are already generally known. However, far too few people take the trouble to exercise regularly. Why is this? One of the main reasons for a failure to exercise is the lack of suitable or attractive areas and spaces in the vicinity of where individuals live where they can enjoy being active, promote their health and interact with others. For generations now, local authorities have been under pressure to provide exercise spaces for their communities. 

Such spaces and options gain in relevance against the background of a pandemic in which social distancing and the observation of hygiene rules are priorities. Exercise in the fresh (and clean) air is something that is possible even during lockdown phases.

Developers and planners thus need to pay close attention to the design of such spaces. In the past, in the 1950s, sport facility development concepts were based on the ‘Golden Plan’ of the German Olympic Association (DOG), in which per-capita statistics derived from numbers of local residents was used to determine the required capacity of standardised activity-dedicated spaces. In the late 1970s, inspired by the growth of the ‘Trimm Dich’ exercise movement, this plan was revised and new targets drawn up. Non-regulated forms of exercise unrelated to organised sports had become increasingly popular so that emphasis was now placed for the first time on the creation of non-standardised, freely accessible exercise spaces outside communal sports venues. This expanded concept thus newly put exercise at the core of developments within a community as a whole, resulting in the drafting of the initial sport development concepts at the local level. To date, this approach to sport and exercise has remained largely unchanged.

The integrated sport development planning concept that saw the light of day in 1990 takes a different approach. In this case, exercise in all its forms and types is treated as a cross-sectoral aspect of all local development plans. This methodology is thus makes it a core element of local public service planning, extending far beyond other planning concepts for the development of sport. Integrating exercise in a wide range of other communal planning activities opens up a wealth of opportunities and advantages. These commence with the methods employed in planning and extend to an increase in the chance of being able to finance sports-related projects.

Integrative sport development planning thus employs a multidimensional policy that takes not just organised sports into account. These are easy to cover and promote as sports clubs and school sport are extensively organised. But it has become apparent in recent years that non-organised exercise and sport activities are becoming increasingly widespread. Integrated sport development planning not only also specifically addresses the associated needs of this phenomenon but also gathers the relevant information.

Integrated sport development planning sees sport and exercise as an everyday facet of a normal urban lifestyle. It assumes that both these phenomena occur in all areas of day-to-day existence and thus must represent constituents relevant to all local development aspects. This means that planning will also take into account elements such as company sports groups, non-organised rehabilitation sports groups, health insurance organisation offerings and the like.

This definition of sport and exercise is the basis for integrated sport development planning. This does not mean the development of individual sport sectors like, for example, organised sport that is already the preserve of sports associations and local education authorities. Integrated sport development planning is, in effect a ‘management issue’ and is the responsibility of the administrative heads of local authority organisations. These each contribute, specifying the needs they are aware of and inputting their specific know-how. This structure offers several advantages. For one thing, sport development gains in importance and is thus assigned considerably more significance within local planning activities. In addition, the endorsement of sport development by administrative bodies is guaranteed as is their active collaboration. And, last but by no means least, this stable organisational framework means that sport development no longer bears the stigma of being an optional undertaking. It is true that sport development remains a ‘voluntary’ undertaking on the part of local authorities but the integrated approach ensures that related projects are likely to meet with the approval of policy-makers and administrators than any sectoral development that is only partly the responsibility of these bodies.

Integrated sport development incorporates the specialist contributions and/or feedback of many departments, thus gaining a multitude of inputs and ideas that would might alternatively remain unexplored and unknown if planning remained on a sectoral basis. It is quite clear that this makes possible a much more broad-based development of sport and exercise. And, at the same time, sport and exercise become the responsibility of a number of departments that otherwise would have nothing to do with this and so this becomes part of their range of interests. But is it not just the diverse input of the different departments that is relevant but also the take-up of sport- and exercise-related options that might otherwise be ignored if a conventional approach were taken. Cross-over developments involving the collaboration of a range of departments often result in the generation of new, exciting innovative options. As the sport and excise landscape of a community is very specific and individual to the locality, there are many small and minor opportunities that can be created through this form of multidisciplinary collaboration.

Moreover, there is greater potential for obtaining the finances for the development of sport- and exercise-related options. When the local authority is involved in a project, such options are seen as factors that can boost the attraction of the location and its marketability and may even be seen by businesses as a chance to help improve the health of their employees.

Necessary for the implementation of this holistic, integrated approach to sport development in a community, particularly when it comes to the non-organised sport types, is the identification and differentiation of the socio-sport categories among the local population. With this information, it is possible to determine the related attitudes and behaviour of the various social groups with regard to the related activities and this can be used as a basis for sport development policies. In order to ensure that the corresponding projections are accurate, integrated sport development planning employs the method of scenario generation. Recognised trends in sport within the community are used and extrapolated to produce possible scenarios in which the individual tendencies are distinguished and defined. In many cases, such projected scenarios have proved to be correct, demonstrating the validity of the method.

Another technique employed by integrated sport development is networking - fostering inter-community activities. The work undertaken by clubs to date by providing youth and competitive sports - in other words, promoting contact and connections on regional and national levels - can now be also be done without difficulty for the non-organised forms of exercise activity, resulting in strengthening of the local identification with these activities. For example, there can be related exchanges between businesses with regard to (company) sport activities, resulting in an innovative form of networking.

Of course, it could be pointed out that it is impossible to finance a comprehensive sport development concept such as this because of the complex organisation and planning it requires. However, if the will is there at the political level and the policy-makers are persuaded by suitable guidance of the opportunities and potentials of integrated sport development, further (financing) options are opened up for the implementation and realisation of related projects. The argument that says such things are ‘impossible’ thus falls by the wayside.

The method has already been used in several communities with success and, in addition to leading to positive developments in sport- and exercise-related activities, has generated and positively influenced other developments.



About the author

Heiner Haass is an architect/urban planner with a doctorate in sports science and Professor of Urban Planning at Anhalt University of Applied Sciences. He has worked in the field of community sport development since 1988, undertaking research, development, publishing and lecturing on the subject. He also has extensive practical experience in terms of designing and planning urban developments in which connection he has been able to utilise his expertise in sports science. Haass is thus able to offer towns and communities corresponding advice and support together with holistic sport development planning services.

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