by Meghan Davis*
It is a mere few weeks before the frenzy of the 2010 World Cup and the spotlight is now on soccer, which for millions across the world is more than a game. Even to the Federation Internationale de Football Association, or as many people know it, FIFA, soccer is used as symbol of hope and integration. The organization promotes cultural diversity and educational and humanitarian values through the sport. For the first time in the World Cup’s history, it will be hosted in an African Nation—South Africa. This tournament could not have come at a more opportune time for the nation. Since the end of apartheid in 1994, South Africa has achieved many successes but also faced many challenges as a young, integrated democracy.
One of these challenges post-apartheid South Africa faces is the vulnerability of its youth population. The FIFA World Cup has come at an appropriate time to aid the youth to develop the necessary skills they need to achieve success in life. The FIFA World Cup has the potential to become a strong catalyst for creating positive change for the younger generations. South Africa should utilize its power as a host country for this tournament to engage FIFA and organizations into further developing the youth through partnering sports with leadership training.
The combination of leadership development and sports is one of high importance. Sports, soccer in particular, are globalized; anyone, no matter their gender, disability, ethnicity, social background, or religion, can take part in games. Sport and games have the power to reach and teach like no other channel.
There is emerging indication that when youth are given the opportunity to engage in sports, there is an increase in academic performance, higher levels of motivation, improvements in school attendance, and reductions in aggressive behaviors. Sports, game, and play and leadership development training, provide mutual reinforcement of skills acquired on and off the field.
The World Cup has inspired organizations to further incorporate sports into developing strong youth leaders within the community. Here at Leadership Africa USA, we work with the younger generations, helping them to acquire the skill sets that will align their futures with success. Students leave with an enhanced feeling of self-confidence, improved critical thinking and analytical abilities, and improved communication capabilities. It is this same level of self-confidence that exudes from a child when they engage in sporting events.
*Meghan Davis is Leadership Africa USA’s Spring 2010 intern. She is a rising senior at Suffolk University.