1.4. Implementation into practice: Adapting to the new host community

Evidence suggests that there are several important outcomes of immigrant adaptation and settlement:

  • national identity - one's identity or sense of belonging to one state or to one nation
  • life satisfaction - an indication of internal adjustment, reflecting such attitudes as satisfaction with circumstances, friends, job, family, and recreation
  • role performance - an indication of external adjustment, reflecting states such as economic well-being, job performance, academic performance, use of community offerings, and contribution to one’s community.

Research also identifies several predictors of these outcomes - environmental stressors and facilitators in the immigrant’s new setting:  

  • background characteristics the immigrant brings to that setting
  • relations among members of the migrating family
  • cultural skills brought and developed during the immigrant’s settlement process (including language)
  • the immigrant’s personality (e.g. optimism, hardiness, locus of control)
  • personal reactions to one’s new community (including friends, work, school, and activities).

Notably, possessing or acquiring language and other cultural skills of the immigrant’s new country are seen as mediating other outcomes, rather than as the ultimate adaptation outcomes themselves.

Young immigrants represent a distinct group with unique challenges. Adolescent immigrants tend to express less satisfaction with their lives and more alienation from their community. This is not surprising. Young people are already in the middle of shifting identities as they approach adulthood, so learning to identify with a new country would seem likely to magnify any difficulties they may experience within family routines, schooling, and friendships, for example. Helping young people to deal with the inevitable pressures of adolescence, along with the challenges of cultural transition, are likely to be highly valuable for immigrant youths.

Young people, themselves, identify the following key factors that promote successful settlement:

  • Learning to fit into mainstream society
  • Learning the language of the host country
  • Dealing with prejudice and discrimination
  • Finding effective role models
  • Maintaining their home culture, while adapting to the new country
  • Sharing projects
  • Building friendships with other immigrants, first, then with mainstream peers
  • Supportive adults.

This project is about sport and physical activity, so it is useful to consider what these principles might mean in practice in that context.

Key factors for effective settlement, as identified by adolescents

Examples of ways in which sport and physical activity might support these factors

Learning to fit into mainstream society
  • Coming together in a shared ‘contact area’
  • Getting to know people from the host community
  • Progressing from sharing information about the structures in sport to structures and traditions in the host society
  • Understanding that sport is a part of daily life
  • Teaching values through sport.
Learning the language of the host country
  • Creating a setting where language differences are not so important
  • Motivating players to learn the language of the host community
  • Facilitating the informal conversations for, and after the game
  • Talking to other players, volunteers, coaches, and parents.
Dealing with prejudice and discrimination
  • Promoting positive values and principles
  • Addressing prejudice and discrimination through coach education and qualifications frameworks
  • Prioritising merit over nationality
  • Celebrating role models.
Finding effective role models
  • Finding examples from all levels of sport, including the community level.
Maintaining their home culture, while adapting to the new country
  • Opening opportunities for immigrants’ favourite sports within the host community
  • Remaining open and accepting of new sports coming from the countries of origin
  • Supporting home communities in sports clubs.

Sharing projects

  • Distributing positions, jobs, and voluntary functions in the sports club
  • Involving immigrants in sport-based projects
Building friendships with other immigrants, first, then with mainstream peers
  • Connecting with fellow migrants through popular sports
  • Engaging with family members and close friends
  • Inviting and supporting migrants to organise their own clubs.
Supportive adults
  • Involving parents
  • Engaging local adults as coaches
  • Collaborating with schools.
  • Table 1: Key factors for effective settlement

As we will discuss in later sections of the ASPIRE guide, sports and other physical activities can be very valuable resources in supporting migrants and refugees. But their real value is only realised when they have certain characteristics. Evidence suggests that the most effective sports sessions:

  • Promote a sense of safety – the sessions must take place in a space that is safe and secure, and must encourage all participants to FEEL safe, too.
  • Connect people – social support is a powerful source of well-being, so cooperative and friendly activities are particularly important.
  • Support efficacy in individuals and communities – many migrants and refugees lose a sense of control of their own lives. Sports can offer a positive context for helping them take back control and making decisions.
  • Calm – at least in the early stages, sessions should encourage participants to relax. Some sports can be exciting and even stressful, and so they are not well-suited to programmes for newly arrived migrants and refugees.
  • Instil hope – the best sports programmes offer participants a sense of hope in a better future.

So, the coach or teacher has a vitally important role to play in making sure that each session supports participants’ psychosocial well-being. The ideal coach for sport for migrants and refugees is:

  • A planner – effective sessions are well-planned and well-prepared, so that all activities are appropriate to the needs of migrants and refugees, and there is progression and continuity between sessions.
  • A motivator – participants may need encouragement, especially at the beginning of programmes, so the coach needs to be positive and attentive to their needs.
  • A role model – an effective coach does not just teach sport, but embodies the values and attitudes of appropriate psychosocial support, such as calmness, social interaction, and hope.
  • A communicator – the benefits of an effective sports programme do not just come from the physical activities. Time before, after, and during breaks in sessions can be just as important in building trusting relationships, and sharing a revision of the programme.
  • A friend – some people find it easier to talk to sports coaches about their problems and anxieties than other support workers. An effective coach invests time and energy into building strong relationships.

Chapter 3 talks about these qualities in detail.

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