I know, I know… This is LONG overdue! And there’s so much to tell! Since the last update, I was privileged to attend the Beyond Sport Summit 2010, celebrating the power of sport to ignite and facilitate social change and development. Attending that conference really sparked a thought process that has led me to investigate what the power of sport really is and how it can be leveraged to achieve greater social impact on a global scale. Much of this work was demonstrated by the Beyond Sport award winners, and I’m continuing to learn from and work with projects such as these through my Sports Ventures & Social Impact course this semester.
This ‘resurrection post’ as I’ve dubbed it comes from my first assignment for my class… We were asked to define the power of sport for ourselves and assess the capabilities that sport has in a social context beyond serving as a means of entertainment. The following is my response to this question, and I hope it will set the tone for the posts to come as I embark upon my independent study and other research I’ll be involved in over the course of the semester. Enjoy!
The power of sport is a vehicle that can teach life lessons to youth participants as well as it can activate the star power of brands and individuals to incite community action. From teaching HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention through soccer training drills to rallying fans combat the effects of childhood obesity or raising funds and awareness about breast cancer, sport can be employed in a variety of different ways that bring significant social impact to the fans and audiences it reaches.
At its core, sport provides an outlet for youth, who have little opportunity for recreation or leisure, to take time to play; it promotes traditional childhood activities among those who may not have such opportunities due to health restrictions or a need for them to earn an income. Despite these obstacles, team play and organized sport can be treated as a haven where children can come and interact with their peers in a fun and meaningful way. Sport also holds a healing power that relieves stress and trauma affecting children who have suffered through natural disasters like the recent earthquake in Haiti. Beyond these fundamental elements, the Grassroots Soccer, Peace Players, and Right to Plays of the world have illustrated the overarching capacity of sport to evoke positive change in global communities in a host of different yet equally effective ways.
Creative minds have been able to implement soccer-training drills in a variety of ways that teach youth about the risk factors of HIV/AIDS and ways they can protect themselves against it. Professional sports teams have reached into classrooms across the United States, completely rejuvenating standard curriculum by integrating sport into everyday math, science, and other subject areas. Still others have applied sport in an effort to foster peace among conflict-torn cultures, using principles of teamwork and tournaments to unite integrated teams in pursuit of a common goal. Sport also fosters self-esteem among young girls, serving as a forum for skill building and reflection that highlights each girl’s strengths and helps her take advantage of opportunities for further growth, empowering her to recognize and activate her abilities.
Most importantly, sport provides an opportunity to teach a host of traditional values; from sportsmanship and healthy competition to teamwork and confidence and even focus and discipline, sport can be universally applied to teach life skills and other values to youth worldwide while maintaining elements of fun and interactivity that are integral to positive childhood experiences.
Research shows that sport has been overwhelmingly successful in teaching and instilling values in youth across the world and is regarded as a “vital element in the health, happiness and well-being of children and youth.”  It can be used as a catalyst for the development of youth livelihood and life skill building and can effectively nurture important skills and values in youth, of all ages and all cultures.
“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, the power to unite people that little else has.”