Ana Beatriz Moser brings physical education into Brazilian schools and creates opportunities for children across the socioeconomic spectrum to participate in sports.
The New Idea
A retired professional volleyball player, Ana believes sports are an essential tool for teaching children critical thinking skills, teamwork, civic participation, and healthy lifestyle habits. Through her Institute of Sports and Education (IEE), Ana makes quality physical education available to children, particularly in underserved low-income communities, either formally, in partnership with schools, or informally, by partnering with other community organizations.
Ana empowers teachers to effectively use physical education and sports as tools for helping children learn a wider range of skills and values. She trains community educators in physical education and is currently lobbying the government to certify instructors who have gone through her training. Ana also targets university students in physical education programs, and teaches these future educators the importance of sports in children’s education.
Ana supports all her efforts with children, teachers, and communities, by lobbying for changes in Brazilian public policy to support sports in education. To make her campaigns more effective, she capitalizes on her well-known image as a popular national athlete and mobilizes the support of other professional athletes.
The Brazilian school system does not promote sports for education or recreation. In Brazil, sports are considered the purview of the elite and high-performing professional athletes. This bias can be traced to the country’s military government, which promoted stellar athletes as symbols of a powerful nation. Schools were not obligated to include physical education in their academic curriculum until the 1990s, and physical education in the schools continues to be weak. It is generally considered either a way to occupy students’ time or a worthy activity for a small number of highly talented children. In the past several years, some public programs have promoted and funded sports activities both inside and outside the schools, but these programs have largely been designed to give children an alternative to the streets.
A lack of qualified teachers has further impeded physical education in Brazil. University graduates in the field are trained to work in private sport gyms or as coaches, rather than as educators. Physical education instructors are not expected to study or integrate their courses into their schools’ academic programs. Because of a lack of training, most physical education teachers do not tap into the potential of sports for broader educational purposes, such as developing citizenship, critical thinking, or healthy lifestyles in children.
This problem has been intensified by a national regulatory system for sports that promotes elitism. Highly influenced by corporate partnerships, the Brazilian Olympic Committee and the Physical Education Board make it difficult for community educators and regular teachers to be recognized as official physical education teachers in Brazil. Because these are the teachers who reach the majority of the population, the regulations in effect exclude low-income communities from having certified physical education instructors.
Ana works to make sports and physical education accessible to children in low-income communities; empower teachers to use sports as an avenue for broader education; and lobby for changes in Brazilian public policy to place value on sports in education.
Her Institute of Sports and Education has created Social-Educational Sport Centers in a variety of communities, particularly low-income areas, through partnerships with local associations, public schools, and other private and public institutions. These centers are tailored to meet the needs of each community, and bring together many different stakeholders: Physical education professionals, community organizations, city halls, private companies, the public sector, and the “S System” (public, non-governmental organizations funded by payroll taxes, which focus on vocational training and capacity building). The centers offer sports, social, and educational activities that teach children and teens critical thinking and proactive citizenship. Ana also promotes exchanges between youth from different centers, using sports as a vehicle for broader community exchange and learning.
Through the centers, the IEE builds physical education curriculum in partner schools and trains physical education teachers, always with an emphasis on the local community context. The IEE considers physical education instructors to be agents of change both in schools and in communities, since in addition to promoting physical education in schools they often connect their work in the schools to the neighborhoods where their student’s live.
The IEE has developed a training course for community physical education teachers that involves 200 hours of seminars. To date, it has trained 120 teachers and created 15 sport centers, which together reach approximately 2,800 children per month. Physical education teachers in the centers fall into three categories: Pedagogical coordinators, professional teachers, and teachers in training. The pedagogical coordinators are responsible for overseeing the centers and disseminating educational methods. They organize and lead seminars to train both existing and new teachers. Professional teachers coordinate their centers’ specific activities and assist with the training of younger instructors. Teachers in training receive education and complement their professional development with their involvement in their center’s activities. In addition, all physical education teachers are involved in an ongoing discussion of IIE methodology. One of the results of this effort is The Handbook of Educational Games, a practical manual for teachers and community educators. The book is in its second edition, and 3,000 copies have been distributed.
As one means of spreading her work throughout Brazil, Ana has developed, in partnership with UNICEF and the Brazilian Ministry of Sports, a program called “Sports Caravan,” which encourages the development of new centers. The Sports Caravan travels to impoverished towns, where Ana holds sports workshops and pedagogical seminars for educators, creates partnerships with local leaders, and donates sports equipment. In its first year, the caravan visited ten cities in different regions of Brazil, working with 8,000 children and 800 educators. The following year, Ana held follow-up seminars in those towns, and took her program to eight others. Ana hopes to eventually create a network among these cities and towns so they can work together.
At the same time, Ana has taken her methodology to university physical education programs. She believes it is essential to convey to future educators an understanding of what sports can teach. Her post-graduate course is now taught in four cities.
To further empower community-based educators, Ana is lobbying for those who go through her training to be officially recognized by their regional physical education boards. Usually, these government bodies only recognize university graduates as professional sports educators. However, many of the young instructors Ana works with have not had access to higher education. She believes that their practical experience should exempt them from degree requirements they would otherwise need to fulfill. To make that possible, Ana is working with the Ministry of Education to create policies recognizing physical education and community teaching as a new profession.
Ana is also working to make sports centers permanent institutions in towns and cities across Brazil. The IEE training qualifies physical education teachers to create their own sport centers in schools and outside them. Ana helps teachers create these centers by forging agreements between municipal governments, schools, and teachers. For example, in Atibaia City, city leaders have adopted a sports education program, which has led to the opening of two centers. Ana’s strategy of forging strong local connections helps ensure that the projects will become local institutions.
Ana Beatriz Moser was born to a family of Italian and German immigrants and grew up in the countryside of Santa Catarina. Encouraged by her family, Ana became involved in sports when she was very young. She has always been drawn to team sports. Ana played volleyball in a club until she was invited to join first her town’s team, then her state’s team, and finally Brazil’s national team. Her team won the World Junior Championships for the first time when she was 17, and went on to win again the next two years. As a professional athlete, Ana played for Brazil in the Olympics and World Championships, and won several medals.
During the 15 years she spent playing volleyball for Brazil’s national team, Ana distinguished herself by playing a leadership role on the team and by her views about the meaning of sports in her own life and for society as a whole. Her training and travel schedule made it impossible for her to attend college, but she managed read a lot and made a point of learning about the countries she visited. In addition to increasing her understanding of the world, this gave her the flexible, open-minded attitude that made her stand out on the volleyball court. Ana’s team chose her to be its spokesperson, a role that helped her understand sports marketing in Brazil, where the focus is on high performance sports.
At 26, Ana’s chronic arthrosis of the knees made it difficult for her to train with her team. Many people thought she would need to interrupt her career. Ana tried many alternative therapies, and ultimately developed her own rehabilitation program using Global Posture Reeducation and Pilates, both unknown in Brazil at that time. Ana continued to play on the team for five more years, much to the surprise of her coaches, who soon adopted her training methods. Ana became a Pilates instructor and, years later, when she had stopped playing volleyball professionally, she used her expertise as a trainer for the Brazilian national team. During this time she began to feel critical of the emphasis in Brazil on high performance sports, rather than on sports for everyone. In 1998 she began bringing physical education to the schools and founded the IEE a year later.