Dalton Myers | The role of sports in nation-building
November is celebrated as Youth Month in Jamaica. The period is being used to focus on this country’s youth. This year’s theme, ‘Jamaican Youth are LIT – They Lead, Inspire and Transform our Nation’, focuses on youth as a crucial part of developing our country and securing our future. It is therefore a good time to reflect on youth in sport, the role of sport in creating leaders and developing our nation, and how this fits into this year’s theme.
Article 1.3 of the landmark 1978 UNESCO International Charter of Physical Education and Sports declares in part that there should be special opportunities created for the “pre-school aged, for the aged and for the handicapped to develop their personalities to the full through physical education and sport programmes suited to their requirements”. This, among other international declarations, has forced us to think carefully about the role of sport in developing our youth and how this translates into building our nation.
HOLISTIC APPROACH TO SPORTS
Sport plays a vital role in our country in general, and not just for entertainment value and earning. It also creates a medium through which youth can develop leadership skills. For this 2019 Youth Month, let’s look at youth in sport in a holistic way. We tend to focus a lot on those who excel on the field of play but not much on how sport can create the next generation of leaders in our society. By focusing on enhancing our youth leadership through sports and physical education, we can start to address some of the leadership deficiencies in sport management in our country.
We do know that having youngsters actively engaging in sport can help them in terms of self-esteem, team building, health and wellness, leadership, etc. Sport helps with several life skills, such as self-respect and an appreciation for social responsibility. Despite some of the negatives associated with sport, it helps athletes to be innovative, honest, and creative in their decision-making processes. They are forced to learn new skills, think quickly, and communicate efficiently. From those positive attributes, we can realise that youth sport can have an important role to play in developing our nation.
Sport, along with other aspects of the creative industry, showcases Brand Jamaica. Our athletes’ success gives us a sense of pride and joy but also helps to inspire others to go after their goals and reach for the ‘gold’. Youth involvement in sports does not only inspire other young sporting participants but can inspire other youth in general and help them focus on building their future.
By leading and inspiring youth in sports, we are helping to transform our nation. Youth are the future, and while clichéd, it is true. Our youth in sport can be part of building that future through their work on and off the field of play. Help them deal with success and failure, as well as responsibility. I must hasten to point out that merely participating in sports doesn’t automatically guarantee life-skills development. This is evident in the many youth who struggle to transfer the sport-related knowledge they acquire to life in general.
As we focus on our youth this month and I push for a case of observing the role of sport, I want us to also consider those unattached youth who continue to struggle to make that positive impact using sport and physical education because of a lack of resources and opportunities, or athletes with physical and intellectual disabilities.
It is a time to reflect on sport and the issues related to girls and women who struggle to have equal opportunities to develop and/or showcase their skills or are not able to earn through sports.
So this November, as we observe Youth Month, let us also focus on sport as a development tool for youth. Let’s teach our youth in sport that they, too, have a crucial role in the overall development of the nation. Their voice is critical in formulating policies. They are, indeed, the future of Jamaica.
Dalton Myers is a sports consultant and host of ‘The Drive Phase Podcast’. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @daltonsmyers.