Imran NadaphWhy Sport for Development is an effective tool in tackling youth development issues

Sport has the power to change the world.

It has the power to unite in a way that little else does.

It speaks to youth in a language they can understand.

Sport can create hope where once there was only despair.

It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers.

It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination.

Nelson Mandela

It is often said that sport has an inherent ability to bring people together, in particular the youth and yet until recently, the tremendous potential of sport to achieve youth development objectives had largely been underutilized. By its very nature, sport encourages participation bridging national, ethnic, social and religious divides. It is precisely for this reason that sport, when used as a tool for development, can serve as an impetus for social transformation and change!

Sport for development aspires to achieve social impact by using sport, play and physical activity. Alongside its importance in the field of education, sport can also serve as a tool in areas of health promotion, HIV prevention, gender equality, violence prevention, conflict resolution, good governance, inclusion and environment all of which are prime issues concerning young people today.

In the context of India which has an unrivaled youth population; 28% of India’s population is 10 to 24 year-old and 65% of its population is 35 or under. Young people are the innovators, creators, builders and leaders of the future. But they can transform the future only if they have the necessary skills, health, and decision-making opportunities in life.

Sport and Health

In India, non-communicable diseases (NCD’s) like obesity, diabetes, stroke, chronic lung diseases, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, etc. which are attributable to lifestyle disorders have become an increasingly serious problem among the urban middle-class population, including the youth. According to recent WHO estimates, NCD’s are responsible for almost 60% of total deaths in India.

My personal experience working on a holistic sports education program partnering schools and neighborhood communities has showed how being physically active on a regular basis significantly lowers the risk of NCD’s. By equipping schools, community leaders, and educators with the tools to create an active learning environment, such programs improve the health of children, adolescents, and adults and promote lifelong wellness.

Sport in Education

The benefits of sport reach beyond the impact of physical well being and the value of educational benefits of sport should not be underestimated. Sports based youth programs that concentrate on delivering high quality physical education right from an early age have shown the positive relationship between being involved in physical activity and psycho-social development by –

  • Boosting academic performance

  • Increasing concentration and focus &

  • Improving classroom attendance and behavior


Sport in Peace Building and Conflict Resolution

Several organizations the world over have successfully used the vehicle of sport towards conflict resolution efforts at both the grassroots and nation state levels. SDP programs focused on peace building and conflict resolution create and environment in which people can come together to work towards the same goal, show respect for others and share space and equipment. Under a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) project and in partnership with the Sports Authority of Gujarat (SAG) in India, I worked on a project that successfully used sport as a vehicle to tap the potential of young people from the marginalized communities of riot affected Godhra, in the state of Gujarat, India. The center which started off as a community football club, today boosts of several young talented players who have represented Gujarat at various levels of competition

In a nutshell,SDP programs not only create an awareness of the vulnerability to which young people are exposed but also have an empowerment effect. They develop skills and knowledge necessary for young people to have more control of their lives and to function as responsible members of their communities. It is my firm belief that a thoroughly planned, carefully implemented and rigorously evaluated SDP program centered on national, regional or local development and/or peace priorities is a powerful and least expensive answer to the various issues which concern youth development.