Considering the personal challenges of refugees


4.3.1. What is a norm?

A norm is an unwritten rule that most people relate to in one way or another and which assigns power between people. A norm, sometimes referred to as a standard, sets a framework which will include some, but exclude others. We might not be aware of the norms in place until someone crosses the line of what is “expected” and wanted.

One example is the norm which assumes that most people are heterosexual and attracted to the opposite sex. If you live as a heterosexual and have straight friends, you may never think about this norm, because you have not had to pay attention to it in your everyday life. Those of a different sexuality, however, may have to think about it every day in a range of situations.

In a sporting context, inclusion is about making sport settings as welcoming as possible to as many people as possible. To do this we need to identify the norms of our setting and make them visible in order, where necessary, to be able to change them. It’s important to note that for inclusion to be properly successful, it is the norm that should change to include a more diverse group, not the people to fit the norm.

Norms do not exist in a vacuum. We are responsible for following, reinforcing and relating to them. We usually follow and break away from different norms during the course of our life or in different contexts. In order to be able to see the norms within our own group we need to learn how to view sports organisations from a new perspective. We need to ask ourselves questions such as:

  • Who thrives in this environment?
  • Who has an obvious space and who do we listen to?
  • What factors can make some people feel excluded or insecure?
  • How does this relate to the structures or cultures in our society or our group?

While norms or structures can make some people feel excluded or as if they do not belong, others, who fit it into the norm, can benefit from them. So it’s important when we ask ourselves questions about norms that we force ourselves to take a step away from our own experience and from the structures that we might benefit from. Instead we need to look at our sports organisations from the perspective of those who are not included and ask ourselves how we can change.

By becoming more aware of how our organisation is viewed from the outside, we can be an important part of that change and help even out the imbalances within the setting. Adjusting these norms can be a long process. In order to succeed, it is crucial to view the every-day life of our sports setting through a set of ‘norm-critical glasses’, which help us focus on getting the job done.

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