Sports clubs in Germany – working for youth and integration
Anyone with an interest in Germany has heard of FC Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund. These clubs are known all over the world. There are also several thousand sports clubs in Germany which are perhaps less well known, but which nevertheless play an important part in German society – and a key role in the integration and development of children and young adults.
There are currently around 91,000 sports clubs in Germany, with approx. 26 million members. Many of these clubs give people the opportunity to take part in sport without major financial outlay and to become actively involved with others in integration and youth work. This involvement is vital for social cohesion and greatly improves the quality of life for all participants.
The German poet and humourist Joachim Ringelnatz once wrote: ‘Sport strengthens the arms, trunk and legs,/alleviates boredom,/and through clubs protects us,/from loneliness.’ The sentiment continues to hold a good deal of truth even today. Communal sport played in clubs is still very popular in Germany where there is a club for virtually every sport – from A for aerobics to Y for yachting. Several German sports clubs have achieved international prominence, such as the recently crowned German league champions Borussia Dortmund. But most clubs are active at the local and regional level and focus on non-profit youth work and integration.
For those on a small budget
Joining a sports club in Germany does not necessarily mean paying a lot of money – particularly not when compared to commercial fitness centres. The average annual club subscription amounted to €46 in 2010, and was often less for junior members and those on low incomes. So for students and families with children it is often cheaper to take up membership of a local sports club than to pursue other more expensive hobbies.
Sports clubs in Germany play a key role in integration
Widespread and relatively cheap, sports clubs are also particularly attractive for citizens from an immigrant background and international visitors who are in Germany for work or study. Around nine per cent of sports club members in Germany come from an immigrant background – and the trend is growing. There can be no doubt that shared experiences, successes and failures help foreign citizens and visitors to integrate and break down reserve on both sides. Getting actively involved is a really good way of meeting and getting to know others.
The importance of youth work
‘Sporting activity gives children and young people an opportunity to experience authenticity and self-efficacy. It is a way for them to demonstrate skills and individuality,’ explains a brochure on youth work published by Deutsche Sportjugend. So it is no longer just sporting activity that is important for children and young adults; they also look to clubs to provide orientation and identity. Here, too, sports clubs in Germany have an important role to play, for they counter the virtual worlds of the internet and mass media with authentic, self-made experiences. By joining a sports club, children can learn to shoot a basketball and win tournaments for real, rather than simply discover the NBA (National Basketball Association) through a games console.
Shared activities are good for all involved
Sports clubs in Germany also cooperate with other institutions, such as schools, nursery schools and health insurance funds, in their efforts to develop a more active, communicative society. Such institutions have understood that health promotion goes hand in hand with successful integration and effective youth work in German sports clubs. And best of all: all those involved share a sense of joy in achieving common goals.
Discussion in the community
Did you join a sports club during your time in Germany? Were you a member of an amateur team? The Sport and Integration group of the online community at Alumniportal Deutschland gives German alumni an opportunity to swap stories and exchange experiences. Why not sign up and tell us about your favourite sport or about your time in one of the sports clubs in Germany?