The physical benefits of sport or exercise is well known. When there is talk about physical activity for health, many assume it must be a high energy sport or exercise, but any form of activity is beneficial - walks, yoga and dance are good for the body. Whether sport or exercise is enjoyed is another matter, but the health benefits can’t be denied - improved circulation and digestion, strength and endurance as well as a better sleeping pattern. For children and youth, physical activity is especially important. In an article on Sport and Dev.org, an online platform dedicated to sport and development, sport promotes the development of healthy bones as well as effective lung and heart function. There is also mention of the potential therapeutic benefits of sports in treating some psychological disorders such as depression. However, the environment in which children grow up in can impact their access to sport opportunities.
UNICEF notes that participation in sport offers opportunities for inclusion, provides safe environments and can help with violence prevention and conflict resolution. The concept of sport for development, also known as S4D, was developed to use sport as a tool to empower youth with skills to assist them in life. S4D aims provides physical and mental health wellbeing to children and youth in underprivileged environments.
Using sport to empower local communities, 25-year-old Babalwa Zothe, coaches cricket in the suburb of Khayelitsha in Cape Town. Zothe’s love of cricket started when she was in primary school but there was no girls team available at the time. After being told to play cricket on the boys team, Zothe recruited a bunch of girls and created the school’s first girls team. Since then Zothe has worked to promote girls in cricket.
S4D does not stick to the “traditional” sports of soccer / football, basketball or athletics but includes all sporting activities such as skateboarding and surfing. Capetonian skateboarder, Jean-Marc Johannes, recently competed in the Street League World Championship (SLS) in Brazil and will be completing in the Olympic qualifier in November 2019. Tokyo 2020 will be the first time skateboarding will be included as a competing sport. In an interview with EWN, Johannes talks about what drew him to skateboarding - “the fact that is was free... it was for anyone and everyone. '' Johannes also spoke about the inclusionary aspect of skateboarding.
We have three projects that use sport to empower youth with skills and opportunities. In South Africa we have Surfing with Kids and Valley of a 1000 Hills, and in Namibia we have Sports for Development.
The Surfing with Kids project has been offering free surfing lessons to marginalised youth since November 2010. Children are introduced to surfing as a healthy way of having fun. Through the medium of surfing, the project’s team teaches the value of learning to do difficult things and enjoying the results of commitment and dedication. By learning to do something they've never done before in an environment they've never encountered before, children develop a new awareness, forming new ideas about themselves, their abilities and their lives.
Through skateboarding, the Valley of a 1000 Hills project brings together people from diverse backgrounds. Skateboarding gives rural and vulnerable youth self-esteem and pride, and brings them a sense of freedom, possibility and purpose. In 2001, a group of professional skateboarders established a skate park in a rural Zulu village in an attempt to include rural youth in the sport. Tony Hawk has visited the project twice and echoed the words of the late Nelson Mandela “Sport has the power to change the world”.
Our Sports for Development project uses sport to provide children and youth in Namibia with valuable skills and opportunities. Sport is at the core of this upliftment project which aims to provide access to sport and recreational activities, giving children and youth a chance to play, have fun and learn, but also to develop their skills as leaders and to compete. This project believes that the availability of facilities should not be an obstacle to sports participation. Current sports of focus are football, volleyball, netball, basketball, yoga, distance running and tennis.
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