Are sports the answer to society’s youth crime?
There are reasons why it might be, no matter how glib the question might seem. But before we consider how sport can be effective, we have to consider why youth crime exists in the first place. We don’t have the full answer here — the issues are wide-ranging — but getting to understand why is the first step in tackling the issue.
What are the reasons behind youth crime?
The government and popular media often place the blame on video games and violent movies. ‘Ban this sick filth’ and the like, are headlines often emblazoned across the front pages of the Daily Mail and other such rags, perpetuating the view that Grand Theft Auto and its ilk are responsible for gun shootings and stabbings on our street. Is this true?
Some educators have been known to blame the parents. A lack of parental supervision is certainly an issue, and there are overwhelming cases of neglect. However, not every parent is to blame, and we have to remember that our young people do have free will.
Perhaps our Government is to blame. Cuts in education have put an end to many learning mentor and school counselling jobs; those careers purposefully set up to encourage and support our young people.
Then there’s gang culture to consider. Perpetuated by peer pressure, this is one of the major causes of youth crime in our inner cities.
These and other factors (depending on your point of view) may be the reasons why youth crime is on the rise. An answer needs to be found, and as we suggested at the beginning of this article, the answer may be sport.
Is sport the answer?
In August of this year, an independent review was published highlighting the worth of sport and physical education in the youth justice system. You can read the press release here. According to one academic, sport can play a vital role in ‘rehabilitation and reducing offending’. Community groups have engaged with the justice system and are working with offenders and vulnerable groups of young people; getting them off the streets, into sport, and providing the possibility of vocational qualifications.
Of course, while the Government will laud new initiatives into using sport to ‘better’ our young people, it really isn’t big news at all. For many years, youth and community groups up and down the country have been working with young people, especially in our inner cities. Recognising the problems within — disaffected youth, unemployment, poverty — charities, such as Street League, have already taken steps to counter the problems our young people face, giving them hope and a purpose in an environment where hopelessness can lead to crime on our streets.
As a society then, perhaps it’s time we stood behind such sports initiatives, donating money to support them as they support our young people. Perhaps it’s time to seriously consider sporting scholarships as a career path for the children in our care. Perhaps it’s time to raise our voice in the fight against youth crime, and encourage our local governments to action when it comes to aiding sporting initiatives in our communities. If sport is the answer, then we may reduce youth crime.
Of course, you might ask why sport? Why not some other such activity? There are kids who hate sports, after all. Good question, and any activity that gets our kids off the street and into something productive is bound to be a good idea. However, for those kids who are willing to get into sports, there are life lessons within that can prepare them for adulthood and employment, above and beyond the sporting field.
Sport teaches our children to be part of a team; a collective group of people where everybody has a part to play, and where everybody has the right to an opinion on how best to play. Sport teaches our children leadership skills, giving them the opportunity to support and encourage each other to do better. Sport teaches our children emotional skills, giving them a safe place to experience anger, frustration and failure. And sport teaches our children that they can experience success; that they have a skill that not only betters them, but betters the lives of others. These and other life lessons, can set our kids up for success in adult life.
So, is sport the answer to society’s youth crime? While it isn’t the only answer — efforts need to be made to reduce inner-city poverty, to improve educational programmes, and to take weapons off the street — sport is certainly one possible answer and is more than just a sticking plaster on a gaping wound.
Let us know what you think!