What is roller derby?
Roller derby is a competitive roller skating sport played by two opposing teams of five players who race around a track. Players try to prevent the other team from scoring points, which are scored when one player of each team (the ‘jammer’) passes the opposing team. There is a whole bunch of rules and regulations, which is why you need a minimum of five referees. To get an idea, watch this video:
So much for the game, what about learning?
Roller derby is a fairly new sport in many countries and teams initially had the challenge of becoming established, finding training locations, players and members. In addition, the team needs to develop training programmes themselves, learn about tactics, relate with other leagues (teams from other cities and countries) to organise matches (bouts).
This all involves skills, competences and attitudes that some members possess, but others that they need to develop. Also, think about book keeping, setting up information and communication platforms, first aid skills (roller derby can get pretty rough).
In order to become a good player, you need to have self-confidence. You need to be able to assess situations, be a team player, able to follow directions, and control your temper. You need to learn how to learn the rules, deal with different cultures. Referees need to make decisions at the split second, be decisive and able to listen to your fellow-referees.
Adult learning and roller derby. Huh? What about that?
All these competences are gained through something people like doing; not in school! Here you have the answer. Sport and sports organisations provide ample opportunities for the learning of adults. Not only sports-related skills and competences, but much broader societal and civic competences required in society. Even more, competences are gained that can have labour market value.
European Commission and sports
At European level more and more connections are made between seemingly different policy areas. For instance the Erasmus+ programme connects general education, vocational education, higher education, adult learning, youth work and sports.
The April Draft Council conclusions on maximising the role of grassroots sport in developing transversal skills, especially among young people, emphasises the role sport plays in social inclusion. While first and foremost a physical leisure activity, sports also brings additional added-value with regard to a healthier and generally more inclusive and sustainable societies in Europe.
It may develop positive social attitudes and values, as well as individuals' skills and competences, including transversal skills such as the ability to think critically, take initiatives, problem solve and work collaboratively. Furthermore, sport makes a contribution to the Union's strategic objectives of growth, jobs and social cohesion, including the urgent challenges that Europe is currently facing such as the persistently high youth unemployment rates in Europe.
Increasingly, sports are on the agenda when it comes to developing skills, competences and attitudes.
What can be learned from this in a broader context: connecting passion and learning
What can we learn from the roller derby team that had to learn how to apply for a small municipality subsidy, organise the clubs finances, and establish effective exchange platforms? If you are passionate about something, you can learn about things that you did not envisage yourself learning.
Simon Broek has been involved in several European research projects on education, labour market issues and insurance business. He advised the European Commission, the European Parliament and European Agencies on issues related to education policies, lifelong learning, and labour market issues, and is Managing Partner at Ockham Institute of Policy Support.