What is Education Through Sport [ETS]?

Table of Contents


Sport and education - how does that fit?

Sport and play were already recognised in antiquity as a goal and instrument of education.

Modern European sport also emerged from an educational movement. The games of football and rugby, which are globally popular today, for example, originated in the 19th century in public schools in England, where great educational potential was recognised in sport.

Today, physical education is an integral part of school-based education in all European countries. Developing sports literacy is a requirement for life long physical activity and may be considered as one of the most important learning objectives of school-based sports education.

Furthermore, sport has raised new hopes in the last two decades to contribute to social development on a much broader basis.

The United Nations for example have expressed their expectations and aspirations in their “Values Education through Sport” – campaign.

Is it Education FOR, IN or THROUGH Sport and what is the difference?

There is always a bit of confusion about the distinction between what education for, in and through sport is and which approach is more or less “valuable”.

From our point of view, it is helpful to distinguish on an analytical level between these three areas (see next slide), but at the same time to acknowledge that they often overlap and take place simultaneously in practice and that they are equally important.

Therefore, when we talk about education through sport (ETS) in this course, we acknowledge the educational benefits of education for, in and through sport!


Education through sport can be described as a targeted process. Learning takes place in a planned, targeted and controlled way. The systematic debriefing and reflection of experiences or specific events in the context of sporting activities (teachable moments) is a core element of the method. Education through Sport is particularly suitable for equipping young people with a wide range of life skills.

The targeted use of sport as a learning tool can be used to initiate learning processes. However, the approach reaches its limits when “teachable moments” are always deliberately created. In the long run, this leads to a series of “artificial or meaningless” learning situations. Only when similar but authentic situations are experienced in unplanned situations (e.g. in competitive sport) does sport unfold its full educational potential.

Education for Sport is at the base of our model. Thereby two different aspects have to be considered: On the social level, the question of accessibility.  If sport is to be used as an educational method, it must be made accessible and inclusive for the entire target group.  And on the individual level, there is a need for a sufficient sport literacy. Only those who can read can learn from books and only those who can run, jump or catch a ball can learn in and through sport


Education in sport refers to sport as a setting or learning environment.  This learning environment is attractive and interesting especially for young people and it enables learning with all senses in a complex social environment. It provides countless opportunities for unplanned, informal learning. The authenticity and emotional significance of what is experienced ensures a lasting learning experience.

Education through Sport and Non-Formal Education - Putting the pieces together.

Education through sport (as a methodological approach) is most frequently used in non-formal education programmes (setting).

With our training module for sport educators, we focus on this specific section of the overall spectrum of sport-based educational activities.

Other “combinations” of sport-based learning are also possible (see examples on next slide). 

However, education through sport fits very well into the non-formal education context, because both approaches are based on similar educational principles (see micro learning 3).

How Sport and Education may combine - Examples

 Formal EducationNon-Formal EducationInformal Education
Education For SportDuring the summer semester all six-graders learn to swim proper crawlAfter game days Damir participates in the video analysis sessions of his football team to improve his tactics skillsIda improves her dribbling skills by joining a 3:3 basketball game during lunch break
Education In SportPlaying with the school team in front of hundreds of spectators has helped Tanya to also stay calm in chemestry examsThe youth center climbing course has tought Alex to control his fearsAlways being the youngest guy on the playground has helped Joey to always push to his limits
Education Through SportAs a PE teacher Marco often uses the “football-3” methodology to develope his students’ conflict resolution skillsJulia leads a girls’ empowerment project for her NGO. Debriefing is a key-element in all her sports activities