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step stiftung: Promoting integration and social inclusion in Germany

Beyond Sport X Under Armour Participant Spotlight

September 22, 2023 

In celebration of our #SportForSocialChange retail donation campaign in partnership with Under Armour expanding to Germany and Spain this month, we’re spotlighting the participating charities that are using sport to inspire and teach valuable lessons to youth. Today, meet step stiftung, which works to promote youth integration, participation and social mobility through the power of sport in Freiburg, Germany. 

According to the 2022 Movement Certificate for Physical Activity for Children and Young People in Germany, the country is the worst performing in the categories of physical activity and physical fitness for children and young people. Less than half of them meet the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day. Additionally, 38.2% of children and young people stated that their physical fitness had deteriorated during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The report also shows that in primary schools only around 50% of physical education (PE) teachers are specialised in the subject and this falls to 30% in secondary schools. However, there are very few opportunities for teachers to get further training on physical activity, fitness or sports. As a result, 20-35% of pupils say that they move very little in PE classes and they are hardly strenuous.

In addition to the lack of PE classes contributing to the barriers of physical activity in the country, there is a lack of sports opportunities and programs outside of school, as well as issues with cost and access. These barriers are exacerbated for those from socially disadvantaged or refugee backgrounds, particularly when coupled with language and integration challenges. Germany is the third largest refugee-hosting country in the world with 2.2 million refugees. Since the outbreak of war in Ukraine, over 900,000 Ukrainian refugees have received temporary protection in the country. 

step stiftung 

Some description

Founded in 2004, step stiftung is a sport for development organisation based in Freiburg, Germany with the mission to support children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Operating under the motto ‘bewegen. begeistern. beteiligen.' (move. inspire. engage.), it believes in the power of movement and sports to stimulate social learning, initiate education and promote integration, participation and social mobility. 

step fortbildung, the organisation’s Foundation, operates throughout Germany. It offers sports coach training focused on integration and diversity that can be implemented by other sport for development organisations in the country. step's primary focus is on integrative sports programs that provide youth with additional opportunities to develop physically and mentally. Its target audience is young people and those from disadvantaged backgrounds, such as refugees and those at risk of addiction and homelessness.

"Our integrative sports program focuses on ensuring that children and youngsters, irrespective of their backgrounds, have equal opportunities to participate in sports and recreational activities. By integrating them into sports, we aim to foster a sense of community, self-esteem and mutual respect," explained Marisa Thomann, Project Manager of Qualification and Sustainability.

“We want to make sport accessible to more vulnerable people. We do this together with a large network of partners throughout the country. Every year we reach thousands of youth in this way to create maximum impact. Everyone in a socially vulnerable position should be able to exercise. Sport gives new energy and helps people to participate in society again.” 

Thomann shared that the top challenge youth in the region face is participating in physical activity, including the lack of opportunities to move which was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, finances and language challenges among refugees make it hard for them to engage with local sports clubs which often have traditional structures that can trigger feelings of foreignness. Girls especially are underrepresented in sports clubs. 

step stiftung is addressing this through its four core projects, which combine sport and exercise with education, social learning and health, and reach approximately 200 children and youth weekly. One of these is its "kick mobil" project. Through it, a cargo bike equipped with free innovative play and sports equipment travels around Freiburg to reach youth and refugees in the city’s urban areas. Launched in 2020, the initiative has reached over 4,000 children with a focus on providing easily accessible sport and exercise options while eliminating barriers such as location and cost. The project ensures that every child, regardless of their background, has access to the benefits of sports. 


Abibda, a kick mobil participant, shared: “When I grow up, I want to be a footballer. I learned this at kick mobil and especially when playing with the boys, you learn much faster because as a girl you try to prove to yourself that you can do it.” 

The organisation also has school-based specific programs one of which is the "kick for all" project that integrates schools and focuses on educational opportunities. The program promotes diversity and challenges stereotypes through inclusive physical activities. Through disciplines such as para sports, it encourages students to reflect on biases in order to promote values of acceptance, understanding, respect and fair play. The Frieburg kick for all project will begin this November. 

Its other projects, ‘kick for girls’ and ‘kick for boys’, are football clubs for secondary schools in Freiburg. Aimed at the girls and boys separately, both clubs develop social and personal skills, as well as football skills. ‘kick4you’ is a small group offer that has been adapted to the pandemic conditions and is tailored towards the kids’ wishes and needs. As part of this, a ‘kick teamer’ offers sports activities in public spaces in various communities for four to six participants in order to more easily meet their specific needs. In addition to its youth sports programs, the organisation offers qualification programs through 'step training', which includes advanced training for sports coaches in integration and diversity. To date, it has trained approximately 1200 coaches through the program.  

With funds raised from the Beyond Sport X Under Armour campaign and seed funding provided by the retailer, step plans to launch a new ‘kick connect’ project in January 2024. The goal of the project is to provide children and teenagers from refugee backgrounds with easy access to sports and physical activity that emphasise social integration and personal development. Through collaborations with local partners such as sports clubs and schools, kick connect will create inclusive spaces for movement and education in urban areas and neighbourhoods. 

“We have been offering programs at refugee accommodations since 2022 and now want to expand them. The idea, as with kick mobil, is to travel weekly to the accommodations with a cargo bike equipped with play and sports materials. For this we need a new cargo bike to be able to handle more deployments per week and reach more children and teenagers with refugee backgrounds.”

Learn more about the incredible organisations we're working to support in the UK and Europe HERE. If you live in Germany, please consider visiting your local Under Armour store to support #SportforSocialChange! 


Das Leben junger Menschen durch Sport verändern