A critical occupational approach: Offering insights on the sport-for-development playing field

Janet Njelesani, Debra Cameron, Barbara E. Gibson, Stephanie Nixon, Helene Polatajko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The past 15 years have witnessed a proliferation of sport-for-development organizations mobilizing sport activities as a tool for international development. Along with the growth in programmes, an academic analysis of this phenomenon has emerged. However, this body of research has not included an analysis from a critical occupational perspective. This is a conspicuous shortcoming since sport-for-development initiatives are occupation-based programmes. In this paper, we used a critical occupational approach to explore how programme staff and youth participants speak about and understand the use of sport activities in sport-for-development programmes in Lusaka, Zambia. Our findings illuminate the form, function, and meaning of sports in the programmes. Considering the form, function, and meaning together, given that football - which is heavily gendered and segregated - was constructed as the preferential activity for programmes, non-disabled boys were seen as the primary beneficiaries of the programmes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)790-807
Number of pages18
JournalSport in Society
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 2014


  • occupational therapy
  • occupational approach
  • sport-for-development
  • sport programs
  • international development
  • athletics programs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies


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