© 2016 by DIONNE HARRIS

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RATIONAL

A solution for helping children, both in preventing violence and adopting healthy lifestyles, is participation in sport. Physical activity and sports, can contribute to the social and psychological development of children, and there is tremendous potential to enhance children's self-esteem and motivation. Participation in sports can also provide a setting where children learn to work within a system, discipline, life skills, tolerance, and social skills. If coaches are supportive and these skills are reinforced, they can then be transferred to other areas in life. In fact, findings show that children, pre-adolescents, and college students, involved in sport, have more professional orientations than those who are not. In order to effect long term changes, we must teach our children healthy habits at an early age; exercise, nutrition, and love of sport, which all contribute to creating a generation of healthy, well-rounded children who have been given the opportunity to grow up into disciplined, healthy, independent adults.

Bridging the cultural gap through sport is the desired result of our programs, by fostering positive social interaction between all children. While playing and learning together in lessons, and eventually in competitive play, the natural breakdown of harmful stereotypes will occur, leading to understanding, cooperation, respect, and ultimately spontaneous play and interaction. Through team building; which involves the sharing of strengths and challenges together, children naturally learn how to overcome obstacles by working together. The camaraderie and nurturing of expectations of equality and opportunity, on the playing court, are natural tools to promote this. It's logical to begin with children in the all important quest to bring about a confident, happy and successful society. It is an accepted premise that children, who participate in sport together, can transcend political problems and ethnic conflict, developing productive, cross-cultural relationships, and changing the attitudes of all involved.

 

Often, informal education establishes the link, necessary to bridge the gap more naturally, quickly and concretely than the lessons learned in the formal classroom. The process of natural integration through sport, involving children of all economic levels and backgrounds, is a connection that needs to be achieved in order for them to feel they are a part of society. Their future is brighter and more secure, as a result of mutual acceptance, understanding and recognition. The positive memory which is created will result in a positive frame of reference for future encounters, and hopefully these children, and their families, will be life-enhancers as they grow into local ambassadors.