Erin Boudreau is one of our most passionate and committed grassroots coaches who has been actively involved with TGP in our fight against HIV/AIDS in the district. Through this blog, the Leadership academy member shares with us her thoughts on why sport for development has such a great impact on all of us and how the United States stands to gain a lot through its successful implementation!
Imagine all the spectators who traveled to Glendale, Arizona to attend Super Bowl XLIX, the game between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks. Where did you watch that game? Probably in front of a television in a living room like the majority of the United States. Now imagine all of the spectators, in the stadium and in living rooms, using their passion for football to create jobs, prevent HIV, decrease smoking, and decrease high school dropout rates. In the United States, we think of sports in terms of the athlete and do not utilize the impact sports can have on the spectators to create meaningful change.
‘Sport for Development’ is the use of sport as a tool to reach personal, community, and national and international development objectives. Sport for development programs have led post-apartheid South Africa to use sport as a tool for empowering marginalized and impoverished communities. The Grassroot Project was adapted from the Grassroot Soccer model in South Africa to educate at-risk DC youth about HIV/AIDS. One of the many purposes of TGP’s trip to South Africa was to realize the potential of sport and learn what we need to do as student-athletes and TGP ambassadors to run a successful sport for development organization.
Before receiving the itinerary for our trip to South Africa, the only sport for development programs I knew of were The Grassroot Project in DC and Grassroot Soccer somewhere in South Africa. South Africa, along with many other African countries, has witnessed sport’s potential to drive social change across the nation. In my opinion, the United States is very far behind the sport for development bandwagon for no good reason. The most impoverished townships outside of Cape Town and Johannesburg we visited had minimal resources and outdated facilities but had people who are passionate about sport and community development running the programs. The United States has the facilities and settings in which to implement sport for development programs, but it lacks the passion and know-how to do so in its people.
Marion Keim, a University of the Western Cape professor, states, “Sport doesn’t do anything. It’s us, using sport.” Imagine if a small portion of the over one hundred million Super Bowl viewers channeled their passion for watching football into actually using the sport to empower youth and marginalized communities across the US. Would the unemployment rate drop? Would HIV still be an epidemic in DC? Would fewer teenagers smoke and drop out of high school? The United States does not lack social issues that can be improved by the use of sport. Creativity and passion of people like Tyler Spencer, the founder of The Grassroot Project, will help use sport to fight the systemic issues inequality puts in place.
Of course, sport is not a solution to every social issue the United States faces, and there are no quick fixes to these systemic issues. However, sport is one of the only things in the United States that transcends divisions of social class and can spark the emergence of interpersonal relationships with little to no verbal means of communication. This is something powerful that can change how communities live and interact with one another for the better. But it can only happen if people stop just watching their favorite sport and begin using their favorite sport.
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.
Hoops4Hope site visit in Khayelitsha, a township outside of Cape Town. The program’s goal was to get thirty students to attend an after school program that uses basketball to teach life skills. Over one hundred students consistently attended this program.
The Grassroot Project coaches, staff and board members learning how it is more difficult to prevent HIV with multiple sexual partners through playing soccer with Grassroot Soccer coaches in Khayelitsha.