Sports and Coaching Volunteer Abroad Programs
Sports and Coaching Volunteer Abroad Programs
Volunteering with sports abroad was not a natural decision for me. After all, for my entire life I’ve only been marginally athletic, usually preferring the library to the gym. When I envisioned teaching English in a foreign, tropical country, I didn’t picture myself playing a lot of Frisbee and American football. Still, when I accepted my unexpected opportunity to bond with my students through coaching football, ultimate Frisbee, and other various games and sports, I found the experience to be wonderfully fulfilling-- and I think you will too.
When I arrived to volunteer for a year in Malaysia, I was a little taken aback to learn that a large part of my job was expected to be me coaching our school’s sports. It honestly took me a while to warm up to the idea and to see the incredible value of sports as an avenue for cross-cultural communication and as a way to improve the confidence and academics of students around the world.
First things first—why sports?
One of the most difficult things about volunteering with children abroad is the language barrier. For many kids, you will be the first person they’ve ever met who they cannot easily communicate with and they aren’t really sure how to deal with that. They might even think that there’s something wrong with you, or that you will be able to understand them fully once you settle in for a day or two. Even an unseasoned volunteer will know that this is not true. Although some people might have a knack with picking up the local lingo, learning anything beyond the basic components of a new language is a challenge for anyone, especially if you’re there for less than a few months. Without a common language, it can be excruciatingly difficult to communicate even basic messages or feelings, especially with children who are already nervous and incredibly shy about speaking to someone from another country. How can you share a powerful experience with someone else abroad if you can’t even exchange greetings? One avenue is through sports and games. But hey-- don’t just take it from me. One of Volunteer Forever’s co-founders, Billy Beltz, had an incredible experience as a sports coach while volunteering in Thailand.
Billy’s interest in a sports coaching volunteer abroad opportunity stems from his own experience as a student athlete, when he played college football while at the California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. As Billy’s career has centered around working with physical education teachers in the United States, he was eager to take his passion and expertise abroad and became interested in uVolunteer’s Teach Physical Education program, in which he would be assisting a local school in Trat, Thailand coordinate a sports and games camp for local kids. Since Billy had plenty of experience with the endless possibilities of sports in the lives of children, he knew that he wanted to use his experience to benefit the students of his village long after he left. Billy began to use Volunteer Forever not only to raise money for funding the camp itself, but to buy sports and PE equipment that the schools could use for years to come. He was able to buy footballs, soccer balls, playground balls, cones, jump ropes, and other PE equipment to enrich the local sports programs. Through crowdfunding on Volunteer Forever, Billy was able to exceed his goal of 1,000 dollars and provide even more funds and supplies to the area schools in Trat, Thailand.
After two weeks in Trat, Billy’s belief in the power of sports education was validated even more. Despite the language barrier, Billy was able to execute a successful two week sports camp that served around thirty local children and was able to leave the children with the brand new sports equipment that they were so excited to use, let alone keep. The camp served children from ages seven to seventeen, and Billy was especially inspired by the sense of community that the children demonstrated as the older children worked together to support the younger children and the way that all of the children learned and shared working together.
What Sports and Coaching Volunteering Abroad Involves
Out of the myriad of volunteer abroad opportunities, volunteering for sports and coaching is definitely one of the most straightforward in knowing how you’ll spend your time. Aside from the expected duties of leading games, coordinating tournaments among larger groups of kids, and helping young students grasp sports techniques, there are a couple of other things that you might be required to do in order to provide the children a holistic health and exercise experience. Because sports and games are such a great way to hook children into academic activities, there is usually some element of teaching English in sports volunteering, especially if the kids are studying English as part of their school’s curriculum. Depending on the country or area’s orientation towards western countries such as the United States and United Kingdom, you may also be asked to teach students interesting western sports that they might not have as much exposure with, including baseball and American football as part of a cultural experience for the children.
Many volunteer opportunities also encourage volunteers to share sports and games that you are particularly passionate about. I’d suggest that you take this opportunity to really put your personality into your work. If you’re a huge fan of a lesser-known sport like ultimate Frisbee or even some kind of variation of table tennis, teach it to the kids. Students are always hungry to learn more about their foreign teachers and coaches and will be excited to be in the know about a “real” American sport or game. Since sports are frequently taught in schools or during English camps, you might also be expected to assist with other school functions, such as taking over a club or holding “English hours”. School officials will definitely be interested in harnessing the popularity of sports and games to improve their English-language test scores. Of course, all of this can be dependent on your placement location and the specifications of the volunteer experience itself, so be sure to ask specific questions to your point-of-contact before you begin to embark on your volunteer abroad experience.
Preparing for a sports volunteering abroad experience varies significantly from preparing for other volunteer experiences as you might want to put time into collecting various types of equipment, especially for western games, before you leave your home country. Be sure to contact your placement so that you know what equipment they already have , the condition and age of the equipment, and whether or not you’ll be guaranteed the use of the equipment for your entire stay. You don’t want to end up like me-- after my school assured me that they had plenty of basketballs, I arrived to find that I was the proud custodian of five aged, flat basketballs that had been left outside for about two years and wasn’t able to find a basketball pump until I was able to travel to a more urban area a few weeks into my stay. Even if your school does have equipment, you may want to bring additional equipment just in case. Kids love to play hard and you’ll want to be able to provide equipment that allows them to do this.
Where to Volunteer Abroad for Sports and Coaching
Sports and coaching volunteering abroad is popular for a reason-- volunteers tend to have incredibly fulfilling, rich experiences often by teaching or participating in an activity that they already love. There is nothing quite like seeing children grasp onto a new experience or activity that is a big part of your own life. Communities that host sports and coaching volunteers are similarly satisfied. Children absolutely love being able to interact with volunteers from other countries and cultures in such as low-stress, high-impact way. Communities are also satisfied with the low level of support typically needed by sports and coaching volunteers, as volunteers typically only require space, children, and minimal equipment in order to make a difference in a very real way. Volunteering for sports and games really is a win-win situation for all involved.
As sports volunteer programs are some of the most popular programs that our volunteers work with, there are plenty of choices and locations to consider as you plan your own trip. We’ve compiled a list of nine volunteer organizations and programs that we know to be tried and true-- usually because volunteers just like you have given them spectacular feedback through the volunteer abroad program reviews system on Volunteer Forever. Although there are plenty more organizations that do incredible work with volunteering for coaching and sports abroad, these organizations are a great way to begin your search.
Program #1: Global Vision International
Global Vision International (GVI) is a volunteer program that aims to connect passionate volunteers with causes that are in desperate need of extra hands and hearts to keep them going. GVI organizes many different trips involving working with disadvantaged youth and children, including its program in Costa Rica, in which volunteers organize extracurricular activities for children who do not usually have access to enrichment activities. Such activities can include music, games, crafts, and sports events. GVI also offers sports and coaching opportunities in other parts of the world such as in South Africa and in Fiji.
One project you should definitely check out is GVI’s sports and coaching opportunity in South Africa. On this program, you’ll help teachers and GVI staff with physical education classes for sports like football, cricket, rugby, and more – and you’ll also help run a surf club where you’ll teach surfing lessons and coastal environment care techniques to local children. Plus you can take on extra side trips to Robben Island, Table Mountain, and Cape Point, and go for a wine tasting or wildlife safari. Click here to learn more and to sign up!
Another adventurous program to sign up for with GVI invites you to teach football, netball, cricket, tennis, and athletics to students in India. As a volunteer, you’ll help children of different ages develop English speaking skills, self-confidence, and healthy habits. You’ll work Monday through Friday each week, assisting with physical education classes in the morning, and in the afternoon you help run an after-school sports program. During your stay, you’ll live in a dormitory-style home with other volunteers close to town, and you’ll have plenty of free time to take side trips to Fort Kochi, the Periyar Forest and National Park, and much more. Learn more here!
What Volunteers Have to Say about Global Vision International:
“I was in need of a career break, and was looking to do something out of the ordinary. I was looking to get far away and do something worthwhile. After some heavy research GVI continued to be the organization that ticked all the boxes. They were incredibly helpful when I was choosing my location, and the onsite assistance and support throughout the entire journey was fantastic. I was so lucky to be involved in the Community development program of El Cocal, the children were amazing, I made some friends for life and hopefully one day soon I'll return for a visit! It really was an unforgettable experience! "- Amelia Rogers
Program #2: Maximo NivelMaximo Nivel has offered volunteer abroad, intern abroad, study abroad, and teach abroad placements in Latin America. So far, 25,000 travelers have signed up with Maximo Nivel, which partners with locally-based organizations to provide high-quality, engaging placements for travelers who want to learn, explore, and make a positive impact. Maximo Nivel’s programs also are very affordable, starting from just $595 for your first week in Costa Rica, Guatemala, or Peru.
One opportunity you can sign up for right now with Maximo Nivel invites you to volunteer with children at a daycare center or school. The children you’ll work with come from impoverished backgrounds, meaning many suffer from lack of education, homelessness, or abuse. Your role as a volunteer will be to provide support, caring, and mentorship to these children through a variety of activities, including educational programs, emotional support, and much more. As a result of your efforts, and the efforts of other volunteers and staff, these children can lead healthier lives. Learn more about volunteering with children at: http://maximonivel.com/volunteers/working-with-kids
Program #3: Global Leadership Adventures:
Global Leadership Adventures is a teen volunteer abroad program that organizes trips where volunteers have the opportunity to engage local youth through the implementation of sports programming. In their projects in Costa Rica and Ghana, volunteers are encouraged to take children on activities such as water sports and field sports. Global Leadership Adventures also connects its volunteers to local health education practitioners so that they are able to support missions that aim to lower childhood obesity rates and instill in children a lifelong love of exercise and health. Global Leadership Adventures coordinates trips that are especially catered to teens and youth and can be planned for mission or school groups.
What Volunteers Have to Say about Global Leadership Adventures:
“Such an amazing experience and company to volunteer with. I went to Thailand this summer (2013) with GLA and was really impressed by the home base as well as the American and Thai staff members. The volunteer sights were really nice and for the most part it did not feel like you were volunteering because you were just having fun with the people you were helping. Once you arrive at the actual base with all the other 29 kids you might be nervous but by the second day you will have already begun to make friends and memories. I cannot wait to volunteer abroad again with GLA during the summer of 2014 because it honestly did change my life.” -Jacob Petersen
Naturally Africa Volunteers (NAV) seeks to support sustainable, community-centered volunteer abroad projects throughout Africa in the countries of Kenya, South Africa, Malawi, Tanzania, and Ghana. Although NAV sponsors projects in many different areas of interest, their sports and coaching volunteer abroad experiences are especially designed to build students’ skills in ways that they love. Naturally Africa Volunteers is strongly committed to ensuring that its volunteers are able to work in a way that is safe, sustainable, and highly responsive to the needs of the individual communities. Volunteers who are interested in both teaching and volunteering with sports should check out NAV’s Lake Malawi Program, which places volunteers to work as assistant teachers in order to give students the teacher attention that they desperately need to grow.
What Volunteers Have to Say about Naturally Africa Volunteers:
“From June-July 2-14, I volunteered with Naturally Africa in the village of Nkope, Malawi. My experience was excellent. I was impressed with the mix of international and local staff, the commitment to cultural awareness, and genuine community engagement. The program was oriented toward improving the lives of those in the village through health and education. Its goals were focused and realistic, making its work more impactful. The camaraderie between staff and volunteers was wonderful. I highly recommend this program.” - Courtney Irwin
Program #5: Volunteering Solutions (VolSol)
Volunteering Solutions (VolSol) is another excellent organization offering sports coaching opportunities for travelers who want to make a positive impact in children’s lives worldwide. Founded in 2007, VolSol has placed nearly 12,000 volunteers to date on 122 different projects in 21 countries. It’s also extremely affordable, with sports coaching volunteer programs starting from just $575 for your first week abroad, depending on where you’d like to go - Volunteering Solutions also offers travel insurance for just $12 per week. Right now, VolSol is offering coaching programs in India, Ghana, Ecuador, and South Africa.
One way you can make a difference in the lives of underprivileged children is through Volunteering Solutions’ surf program in South Africa. Through this placement, you’ll help children stay off the streets by providing surfing and swimming lessons, sand boarding and hiking lessons, and even participating in lectures at schools when you’re not at the beach. You’ll work with kids aged 6 to 14, who will learn valuable lessons in healthy habits, team building, and so much more through your leadership. You’ll also take surfing lessons to boost your skills, and in your free time, you’ll be able to explore Cape Town, visit heritage sites, embark on safaris, and more.
Through this placement, you’ll help coach football to kids in Ecuador in their after-school hours. Based south of Quito, you’ll work with children aged 6 to 16 in a soccer school to encourage leadership, team building, good sportsmanship, and much more. Along with coaching - which includes preparing training modules, assisting with trainings, developing team assignments, and more - you can combine this project with English teaching at a local community center. Outside of your volunteer program, you’ll have the opportunity to take weekend trips to World Heritage Sites, visit the Andean plateau, hike a volcano, and explore rainforests.
If you want to volunteer in Asia, check out VolSol’s football coaching placement in India, where you’ll work at a local football club to assist the coach with daily practice sessions, educating players about sports discipline and ground rules, designing a regular practice schedule, organizing matches to analyze players’ strengths and weaknesses, and developing new strategies for the game. Along with coaching, you’ll have the chance to explore different sites around Kerala, including Mattancherry Palace, the Jewish Synagogue and market, Santa Cruz Basilica, Chinese Fish Nets and waterfront area, and much more. You also will be able to take side trips to tea and spice plantations, beaches, and beyond.
Love Volunteers is a low-cost volunteer program that provides 120 volunteering abroad placements in more than 34 developing countries around the world. Every year, Love Volunteers sends thousands of volunteers from all over the world into short and long term international volunteering placements in Central and South America, Asia, Africa, The Middle East, and Europe. Love Volunteers’ international placements start at just $175 for a one week placement along with a one-time $249 registration fee when you submit your application.
Love Volunteers offers a sports and coaching volunteer abroad placement in India. Volunteers will be placed in a rural part of India in the northern province of Rajathstan, where they will have the opportunity to coach sports at local schools, the most popular of which are soccer, volleyball, and cricket. As a sport coach volunteer, you will not only help your students develop healthy, active lifestyles, but will also bring different cultures together though physical education and outdoor activity. Visit Love Volunteers' India Programs website to learn more about pricing and availability for this opportunity.
What Volunteers Have to Say about Love Volunteers:
“Love Volunteers is such an amazing organization. I can't stress enough how kind and helpful they were doing the whole trip process. They were happy to answer any question I asked, and made the process as smooth as possible. I would recommend Love Volunteers to everyone. I can't thank them enough for helping give me this opportunity. It easily was the greatest experience of my life, and I can't wait to do it again. ” - Jordan and Delaney
Program #7: uVolunteer
uVolunteer began with their founder, Nathaniel Amponsah-Manu’s personal belief in the power of combining service and travel. When Nathaniel sought to first volunteer abroad in 2006, he wanted to be able to use his expertise (web design and IT) to the benefit of people whose lives could be transformed by more sophisticated computer education. However, he found that the world of international volunteerism wasn’t as developed as he had hoped and it was often difficult to communicate clearly with small, local projects in remote locations. Still, Nathaniel decided to make the leap and spent his first volunteer abroad trip teaching an improvised course on computer science in Thailand. Nathaniel’s experience would lead him to realize the great potential for international, skills-based volunteering. This first volunteer abroad experience would lead him to orchestrating a massive network of volunteer experiences that extend from Thailand to Ghana and Costa Rica and include all types of programs.
What Volunteers Have to Say about uVolunteer:
As we mentioned earlier, our own co-founder, Billy Beltz, was able to use Volunteer Forever to raise over 1,000 dollars to volunteer with uVolunteer’s Teach PE program, a youth sports program, in the province of Trat in Thailand. Billy spent two weeks volunteering in an area of Thailand far off of the beaten tourist track and found the program and his experience to be inspirational and effective:
“First and foremost, uVolunteer is clearly committed to ensuring each project makes a positive impact on the host community in Trat. They had spent significant time engaging with the community and basically becoming an invaluable part of the community itself. I felt like a local from the time I got there; Meaw, the local volunteer coordinator, seemed to know everyone in town and was a trusted figurehead. Everything we did seemed to be supported by the community. It was a unique way to experience Thailand, since Trat is definitely not a tourist attraction. But I think uVolunteer chose it for that very reason- they found a community that could use the help rather than focusing only on a place the volunteers would want to stay. And because of this, you really get an idea of how everyday Thai culture works and how locals live...The project went very well throughout the 2 weeks I was there. Everyone at the school I worked at was fantastic and very supportive.”- Billy Beltz
Program #8: Agape Volunteers
Agape Volunteers, an affordable non-profit organization based out of the United Kingdom, connects volunteering to high-powered volunteer abroad opportunities in Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania, and South Africa. With their program fee starting at USD $510 (GBP £330), Agape is among the most affordable volunteer program providers in the world. Please note that Agape is unique in that there is no registration fee and free comprehensive travel insurance is offered standard as part of their trips. Agape Volunteers places volunteers in schools, hospitals, and other projects that they either own or fund and support their volunteers every step of the way through around-the-clock support, travel insurance, and a full offering of excursions. Volunteers passionate about volunteering for sports and coaching may especially be interested in Agape’s sports volunteering program in Kenya.
What Volunteers Have to Say about Agape Volunteers:
“My adventure all began at my dining table in London, where I was searching for opportunities to volunteer abroad. I searched Google and found the Agape webpage where they had plenty of different opportunities to volunteer around the world, I found many volunteering companies online, but Agape Volunteers webpage looked the most professional. I chose the Kenya sports opportunity and flew out in June. In my mind, I was constantly thinking, ‘what have I got myself in to?’ Little did I know; I was in for the most motivating, inspirational and eye-opening 4 weeks of my life!”- Kishan Mehta
Program #9: International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ)
International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ) organizes affordable and low-cost volunteer projects in 28 countries throughout the world. IVHQ partners with local NGOs and organizations in a partnership in which high-quality, skilled volunteers join all kinds of local projects and projects range from two weeks to six months. Before volunteers depart from their home country, IVHQ provides a free, intensive online training that help prepare volunteers for life in their home country, their specific roles as a volunteer, and the intricacies of the project that the volunteers will be working with. All volunteers are expected to complete this training prior to leaving their home country to align their expectations with the realities of being an international volunteer.
IVHQ offers an incredible sports education volunteer abroad opportunity based in Fiji in which volunteers work with kids ages 6-16 to develop lesson plans and curriculum with the local sports coaches. Volunteers should expect to be working hands-on with kids for about 20 hours per week, engaging in incredible experiences such as introducing the kids to new games and sports and helping the students create and maintain health and fitness goals.
What Volunteers Have to Say about IVHQ:
“My wife and I are in our 60s and wanted an active, involved "vacation". I was very pleased with the IVHQ experience. Our questions were answered speedily and thoroughly. Arrangements were implemented as communicated. Our local agency, Maximo Nivel, was excellent in all regards. Our homestay and volunteer site (child care) were all we had hoped them to be and the many, many relationships and contacts with other international volunteers far exceeded our expectations. Having been involved in many programs and organizations, I was prepared for some "let downs". There were challenging times; such is to be expected. But the challenges were not with IVHQ or Maximo. Both organizations were there in our corner and very helpful on all regards. Our itchy feet will take us to a different country next year but we will do it through IVHQ and probably at another Maximo site. Keep up the good work.”- Fred Elmore
Program #10: Projects Abroad
Projects Abroad organizes top-quality volunteer abroad opportunities for volunteers all over the world. Projects Abroad offers a variety of different sports and coaching volunteer abroad opportunities and has activity-specific volunteer abroad projects for activities including cricket, basketball, rugby, soccer, track and field, surfing, and volleyball. These types of activities are perfect for athletes or groups of athletes interested in bringing the passion of their sport to new eyes. Projects Abroad also offers after-school projects and projects centered around health and physical education that benefit local schoolchildren.
What Volunteers Have to Say about Projects Abroad:
“I first heard about Projects Abroad through my university. I chose to go to Peru and it was without a doubt one of the best experiences of my life, and I have Projects Abroad to thank for organizing it and being with me every step of the way before I even boarded the plane for Peru. When I got to Peru, I was picked up from the airport by a member of the staff and taken to my host family. I was very lucky because I immediately fell in love with my placements. I participated in the Teaching Program and was placed at a school called Colegio Agropecuario to teach English to students ages 11 to 18. I also worked in the Sports Program on some afternoons, in which I served as a recreational volleyball coach and mentor to 10 to 11 year old girls. Both of these programs were fun and extremely rewarding. I also always had the support of Projects Abroad, especially as a teacher through teaching workshops and the aid of a teaching supervisor.” Cassie Chee
Program #11: African Impact
African Impact utilizes volunteers to further its mission statement of providing responsible, effective volunteer programs that support local African communities. Founded in Zimbabwe, African Impact now provides many different types of volunteer abroad opportunities and internships and has organized programs for over 12,000 volunteers since its founding.
What Volunteers Have to Say about African Impact:
“I volunteered two times with African Impact. The first time was in Zanzibar and the second time was in South Africa, St-Lucia. These were both two wonderful experiences. Everything is well organised, you get an introduction and orientation on your first or second day and the African Impact team is always there to help and support you. It's a group of awesome and dedicated people who were once volunteer, just like you. African Impact is quite expensive, but they use your money in the right way and it's definitely worth it!”- Stephanie Huybrechts
Program #12: Frontier
Frontier, which organizes volunteer abroad trips for teens, adults, and groups, currently offers over 25 different sports and coaching volunteer abroad opportunities, all aimed at helping students gain confidence and teamwork skills.
Ready for volunteer abroad for sports and coaching? Let’s Go!
Now, all that’s left to do is to find the program that suits you best. We’ve tried to get you started by listing a few of our volunteers’ favorite programs above, but there are plenty of other awesome opportunities that might just be the perfect opportunity for you to make change that lasts. As you sort through the options available to you, check out our article on questions to ask volunteer abroad programs or how to use Volunteer Forever to fund your trip.
P.S. If you're still looking for a volunteer opportunity, check out our list of best volunteer abroad programs and recommended volunteer projects in Africa, Central America, and Thailand. You can also read about 7 Great Medical and Veterinary Volunteer Abroad Projects, 10 Dental Volunteer Abroad Program and Medical Mission Tips for Pre Dental Students, and nursing volunteer abroad projects for students and nurse professionals. Or, if medical volunteer projects aren't for you, be sure to read about our sports and coaching volunteer abroad, wildlife conservation and veterinary abroad, teach abroad, and intern abroad programs. Lastly, if you're under 18, you may be interested in a teen volunteer abroad from one of our many great partners.
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