Children playing football outside and being active.

Why Sport for Development is so Important as We Emerge from the Pandemic

Sport for Development enables organisations like ours to support children and young people who might need a bit of extra help as they grow.

Physical activity and sport are powerful tools that enable young people to access positive opportunities from an early age. These opportunities often act as protective factors that counterbalance the risk factors children and young people can come across every day.

What Do We Mean by Risk Factors and Protective Factors?

Risk factors include negative aspects to a young person’s life and can be personal to them. Risk factors could arise through family, school or from their wider community. Examples could include alienation, lack of social commitment, poor parental supervision, school disruption or living in a community facing disadvantage.

In contrast, protective factors can include anything that moderates the negative impact of these risks. Protective factors could include personal resilience, support and guidance from parents or carers, or links to adults and peers with positive attitudes (e.g. activity leaders and coaches).

The Benefits of Sport for Development

Sport for Development opportunities not only help improve young people’s physical and mental health, but it can also support their social and educational development. Plus, it can enable participants to have fun through play, exercise and general movement.

As young people living in some communities can become more susceptible to being involved in anti-social behaviour or disengaging from school, Sport for Development can also provide a pathway out of vulnerability.

Sport for Development can build stronger and more connected communities by listening to young people, seeking to understand their hopes and fears, and realising their potential. It can also build stronger communities by bringing people together to talk about community issues and look for solutions from within the community.

How Does Sport for Development Work?

It all starts with getting to know the young people, understanding them and their lived experiences. It’s also about understanding their communities and where they live. It’s about us learning from them, what life is like for them – what’s good, what’s not so good and how physical activity and sport can tip the balance in the favour of the positive.

Through this approach people working in this sector build trust. Over time they get to know the young people – what activities they enjoy and where they feel safe. Plus, when’s a good day and time and what, if anything, they can afford by way of a contribution towards the cost of taking part.

Sport for Development must continue to play an important role in supporting children and young people as we emerge from COVID-19.

Young people are feeling the effects of isolation. In a survey conducted by Emerging Minds, it was found that two-thirds of school children felt lonely in May 2020, a 50% increase on normal levels.

Further Information on Sport for Development

The role this sector plays in developing young people’s resilience should not be under-estimated. The happiness and wellbeing of certain young people depend on it and the wider work of the activity and sport sector.

Learn more about Sport Development with examples of how it’s helped young people in Devon. You can also find out more by visiting the Sport for Development Coalition website.