American Consulate Brings Dr. Green to Brazil
When the U.S. Consulate General in Rio de Janeiro needed an expert to address a workshop on sport development, they called on Dr. Chris Green of the Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism. As part of its diplomatic efforts in the region, the Consulate General frequently sends Brazilians to the United States for training as coaches, administrators, athletes, and para-athletes. The workshop brought together the program’s alumni to discuss how to further develop sports in the country following Rio’s time in the spotlight as host to the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Dr. Green’s research examines how sport programs are created, grown, and coordinated, and how they impact individuals, groups, and communities. She said that after focusing on elite sports for so long, Brazil is struggling with envisioning a broader sport system that reaches out to all of society.
“The two big sports in Brazil are soccer and volleyball, and they’re trying to figure out how to become more than that, how to bring a variety of sport programs to the masses and enrich people’s lives through sport,” she said. Ironically, she added, Brazilians often think the U.S. sport system is ideal and very coordinated, and nothing could be further from the truth.
“The Brazilian system depends on government funding; it is not a grassroots effort,” she said. “In the United States, sport funding comes from a variety of sources and programs are delivered through a huge array of contexts. There is no single pathway for individual athletes to reach elite status; it is largely an individual effort.”
In addition to explaining the U.S. sport environment, Dr. Green also shared information about successful systems in other countries. She worked with the Brazilians to envision a system of multiple pathways for athletes that could include private clubs, public sport programs, and schools. The value of multiple pathways for women was particularly important, as Brazil’s current club-based system places less emphasis on women’s sport than on men’s. Her perspective informed the conference following the workshop as well. Dr. Green was a keynote speaker at Sistemos Esportivos No Mundo.
“The theme for our meetings was ‘Sport as we want it,’” she explained. “I think there is a lot we can learn from what the Brazilians are trying to do.” Here at Illinois, there will be ongoing discussion about how the Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism can assist Brazilians with their efforts. “For example,” she said, “we might develop an exportable management education program to help people develop sport programs at the grassroots level.” Whatever the form of the assistance, Dr. Green believes there will ample opportunity for interesting follow-up with the people she met, and she is looking forward to continuing the conversation.