Sport for Development is instrumental in the building of healthy communities. In actuality, sports trains the next generation of leaders of our nation. Therefore, it is imperative that government at all levels adopt more inclusive and robust sport-related policies. Through a myopic lens one may think sport is unrelated to community development, but in reality, they are interdependent, and when properly harnessed, can improve the lives of citizens and promote a healthy culture. Sports open up avenues of communication between people of all levels of society and background, and allows underserved populations an avenue of safety and upward mobility. Organized sports often stress the values of fair play and sportsmanship, thereby making a real contribution to improved attitudes and the development of empathy. Sport within community development improves the health, lifespan, and quality of life for citizens and economically uplift all when the funds raised from sporting events are reinvested into the local communities.
We are going to speak to the relationship between sport, human development and community development. The late Julius Nyerere pointed out that community development above all is human centered and concerned foremost with the well being, happiness, and development of the human person. Sport within the context of community development is a catalyst in creating development opportunities for people and communities. It is a conduit that foster new beginnings in the life of people and communities through training, and lifelong learning. It produces citizens who function to their fullest potential, it leverages the ability to develop capacity building through networking, healthy lifestyles, professional development, and experiential learning. Notwithstanding the development of individuals, sport and physical activity can help build stronger communities by bringing people together.
As we attempt to gain an understanding of Sport and Development, we must define the meaning of its components: Sport – activities, social relationships, and competition rendering physical, psychological, and sociological outcomes. Human development – A process involved in the establishment of opportunities to grow and improve one’s well-being. Community development – the empowerment of communities to take collective action to generate solutions to common challenges. Consequently, we know that development is human centered. The old adage that it takes a village to raise a child is even more paramount when it pertains to small island development states (SIDS) and is more pronounced within underserved communities. In most of these communities where programing, leadership, mentorship and opportunity are void human development is delayed. Therefore, if we believe that “the family is the strength of the nation”, where there are strong families… nuclear or extended, we tend to find contributing citizens within functioning communities.
This nexus of the above components leads to programming that focuses on “Sport as a window to human development” hence community development. The sub layers in the process are preparation, capacity building, networking, programming, healthy living lifestyles, professional development, and experiential learning as tenets. These tenets will establish pathways to a successful outcome as we continue to make a contribution to the development of our nation. In discussing sport and development we must acknowledge it is a comprehensive process for managing and mitigating community change that involves a dialogue to create a shared vision to usher in this change. Community by definition is both a physical place, and the people who live in that place. They share common interests and characteristics as they jointly participate in the development of their place. This brings into question, should SIDS add sport to their overall plan for development.
Our track record shows that in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and especially in the funded departments that provides life lines to development, it appears for some shrouded rational that these departments tend to function within a silo mentality where the various personnel who are entrusted with the development of our children and by extension their communities tend to operate from a singularity that does not incorporate collective thinking, the maximization of resources and or collective responsibility. This apartness fashions demarcations that create contention and apathy. We do hope by forwarding a hand in glove mentality where participatory development is a corner stone of the development mantra, we would be able to move the bar towards restructuring the importance of sports in our society and highlight its enormous impact and contribution to national development. Through this shift, we pray thee, that we will be able to develop podium athletes and contributing citizens in all aspects of life – ‘mens sana in corpore sano’ – sound in mind and body.
The first step in righting the ship is the acknowledgement that physical education is fundamental to learning. According to Wikipedia ‘physical education, often abbreviated to Phys Ed. or P.E., is a subject taught in schools around the world. It is usually taught during primary and secondary education, and encourages psychomotor learning by using a play and movement exploration setting to promote health and physical fitness’. Without doubt, physical activities promote healthy growth and development. It helps build a healthier body composition, stronger bones and muscles. It also improves the child’s cardiovascular fitness. Physical activities also help in the development of better motor skills and in concentration and thinking skills. The technical is learned in the classroom, but the tactical is acquired, understood and applied on the field through P.E. Physical education is fundamental to a healthy and productive existence of all. Yet its importance is maligned and its programs in educational institutions are undermanned and underfunded.
When we analyze the outlook of most mainstream bureaucrats, and some parents we know that from their lens P.E is a way to past the time, to them, it is a substandard course and it is inferior to the main core courses of math, science and language arts. Their outlook demands that it should not interfere with the real business of schooling, which they believe to be academic achievement and examination results. However, research evidence has shown that P.E is indeed coactive and complimentary to all subjects contrary to belief. Physical education can affect both academic learning and physical activity patterns of students. Research shows us that the healthy, physically active student is more likely to be academically motivated, alert, and successful. It also tells us that quality physical education programs facilitate exploration of movement in various contexts that enhance acquisition of knowledge and children form more effective schemes by becoming physically interacting with their environment.
In contradiction to the narrow-minded parents and the uninformed governments officials a study was conducted in Trois Rivieres, Ontario, Canada with 546 primary school students who received an additional five hours per week of physical education (additional time was taken from academic subjects, with the exception of English). At the end of six years and throughout the last five years of the study, the children in the experimental group (extra physical education) had consistently better academic grades and achievement in physical education as compared to their counterparts in the control group. Research has demonstrated that children engaged in daily physical education show superior motor fitness, academic performance, and attitude towards school versus their counterparts who did not participate in daily physical education. It is suggested that PE can enhance academic performance by increasing the flow of blood to the brain, enhancing mood, increasing mental alertness, and improving self-esteem and lessens absenteeism. Since children learn through a variety of modalities (e.g., visual, tactile, auditory, physical), teaching academic concepts through the physical modality may nurture children’s kinesthetic intelligence. In P.E, lots of core concealed academic learning’s are applied, such as Physics- as it relates to the laws of motion. Geometry- allows us to use a spatial approach to solve problems as it relates to sport and play. Logic- understanding concepts and Strategic Planning- Tactical skills.
To continue the development process, we need to bring the government and the private sector together to establish a pathway to train and place the necessary PE teachers in the schools. Currently the YES program just scratches the surface. We need the necessary disciplines (athletics, cricket, football, rugby, swimming, tennis etc.) also at the table to brainstorm and establish an empowerment fund. This fund will be used to pay the graduates of the current college sports program to work as PE teachers in the primary and secondary schools. It can also incentivise those who are seeking tertiary education by creating scholarships to the graduates. However, the individuals who receive the scholarships must do their studies in sports, kinesiology or any other profession within the respective disciplines. We have seen that there are many opportunities for talented young people in sports to be recruited by colleges in the United States and Europe. This huge market with its vast resources provides the best opportunities for individuals to receive higher education with the possibility of being recruited at a professional level. It is well established that those who excel at the highest level in any sport, stand to reap huge economic benefits.
As we venture out from the educational institutions, sports programs for young people can play an important
role in preventing crime, gang activity, and drug abuse while promoting the values of sportsmanship. After- school sports can provide an adult-supervised option for at-risk youth. By participating in sports, young people learn the values of fair play, hard work, and dedication while remaining under the eye of coaches. Once these values are instilled, students may also be more likely to apply them to their education, their daily activities and their future. By offering sports programs to at-risk youth, the community may benefit by creating citizens who are invested in their own futures, their community, and the well-being of those around them while making financial savings with less recidivism.
One of the key links between sports and community development is the opportunity for citizens from different socioeconomic positions in society to meet on a common playing field. On a company sports team, office workers may mix with company executives on an equal level, allowing each to get to know the other as an individual, a teammate and community member. Families from different societal structures and economic backgrounds may be brought together with a common goal of cheering on their children at an intramural sporting event. By learning to view other citizens as teammates and fellow sports enthusiasts, sports can bolster the level of connection people feel to their community, or town, or city or nation.