Community sport can help cut crime and anti-social behaviour
August 2012 has been very different from the same month in 2011. Now we are basking in the afterglow of what is generally regarded as a hugely successful staging of the Olympic Games in London, whereas a year ago we were watching parts of the same city going up in flames and wondering which part would be devastated next.
Images of rioters running down high streets and burning out shops have been replaced in our collective memories by amazing young athletes celebrating together at the closing ceremony. What ties both events together is the role that the legacy of each could have to play on the future of many young people in our communities, particularly in relation to community sport.
At Give More, we recently commissioned a survey of UK adults where a fifth of respondents said that a lack of activities for young people was one of the main causes of the riots last August, rising to nearly a quarter amongst parents of 16-18 year olds, while 43% thought that without enough volunteers supporting community sport, there would be more crime and anti-social behaviour. The research comes against the backdrop of recent figures which show a 1.6% decline in sports participation amongst 16-25 year olds.
Organisations like StreetGames have long recognised the power of sport as a lever for positive social change among young people, and the key to exercising that power is the commitment and involvement of volunteers involved in community sport.
We read in last Tuesday’s edition of the Independent about Michael, who was caught up in last year’s riots. Thanks to his determination to make sure this didn’t ruin his life, on his release he threw himself into community sport and volunteering at Brentford FC Community Trust. He is now a coach and mentor to other kids who could find themselves in the same situation. Community sport has given Michael a sense of responsibility and most importantly confidence that he isn’t a “no-hoper”. He was helped by the volunteers at Brentford and the flow on effect has meant he is now helping others.
However, Michael’s story isn’t unique. Community sport gave another young man, Kevin Samuels, a sense of purpose that helped him turn his back on the riots. He now has a promising athletics career and is a volunteer himself thanks to community volunteers who have supported him.
Although he had only just turned 16, Kevin Samuels reached a crossroads in his life last summer. He had embarked on a promising athletics career with the help of StreetGames when the riots reached the West Midlands where he lives. Kevin went along to observe, but despite seeing friends and family members take part, decided to return home. While his friends are now serving prison sentences totalling 10 years for their actions, Kevin, is prospering in both athletics and life. Only 17 in July he is already ranked 32nd in the Under-20 age range in the 200m, and is a now volunteer at the StreetGames project which helped to change his life, teaching the tricks of sprinting to children aged between eight and nine. He credits his success entirely to the support of his Project Leader, Rus Smith, the first to show faith in his abilities.
Community sport offers a real win:win situation. It engages and inspires young people who are often on the margins of our community, helping them to find a focus and purpose, often leading to them becoming volunteers themselves and helping other young people. It also encourages greater sports participation at a time when the UK is dealing with a growing obesity problem. We need to see a massive increase in the provision of community sport, but to do so means we need many thousands more people willing to give time and energy as volunteers in this area.
We have just witnessed the power of volunteers at the Olympic Games, where 40,000 have acted as the best calling card for London that it could possibly ask for. We have untold numbers of young people who have witnessed and been energised by the performance of Team GB, and perhaps have allowed themselves to dream of similar success through sport.
We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to harness the energy of the summer games to inspire young people but we know the Olympics alone won’t increase sports participation – we need volunteers and lots of them. There are a myriad of ways for people to get involved including coaching, umpiring, donating money, volunteering in the canteen, helping fundraise or even just making sure your kids are involved with your local sporting club which has flow on effects and benefits to the group and the community.
That’s why we have launched a campaign to get people to give more time, money and energy to help our communities. One of the ways we can give back is by taking part in community sport.
Give More is an independent, growing movement of thousands of people from across the UK committed to giving more time, money or energy to the causes and charities they care about. We want as many people as possible to give a little more to help tackle rising need in our communities.
Tagged in: Community sport, crime, Give More, olympics, paralympics, Riots, Sport, StreetGames, volunteer, youth
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