sports education for social change

Our task this week was to build a youth media curriculum using Noddings’ centers of care and spiraling from the self out to the world. One of the biggest challenges in such an activity is incorporating this concept of care and compassion. In other words, getting youth to tap into their personal lives and find what they care about and why – how it relates to the world they live in and the world they aren’t immediately connected with.

Paulo Freire and Myles Horton talk about education and social change in their book We Make the Road by Walking. A key point they touch on is using education and literacy to foster participation and citizenship. Freire & Horton’s main point is that critical consciousness is emancipatory. That when children or adults get to the point where they see a problem and start to create change, they are taking their education to the next level and making it their own. In these youth media projects, sometimes all that is needed to jumpstart this process is asking the question “Is there anything you would like to change?” Afterall, one of the best ways to educate is to ask questions. Keeping the question open so that each kid can answer in a way that is relevant to their lives and that gets them thinking critically about their surroundings.

By learning from others and being interested in what’s going on around us, there will always be something new to explore. Freire & Horton say that a good teacher never stops being surprised, and in the same way a good student never stops discovering new things. The same philosophy applies in sports, the coaches know a certain amount of technique and rules but they will always be learning from the players and from the sports community. If people are motivated by finding ways to be useful and serve, according to Freire & Horton, then sports truly offer a great platform for this need. A coach is a teacher and a mentor and the players are the students. This is an environment of sharing and respecting each other’s knowledge and talents – an environment of education.

Education should be a transformative and liberating process, enabling each and every student to realize their potential and to realize their worth in society. Education doesn’t end with school. It is a process that spans an entire lifetime and adult education can be just as important and emancipatory as youth education. Some things are easier when learned at a young age such as languages but there is never a cutoff period if someone is truly motivated. The same goes with sports. We put a lot of emphasis on youth sports to build character – getting kids involved in ballet, soccer, swimming, anything active. But when we’re adults, we disregard this need for communal and physical activity. It is just as beneficial to play sports as adults as it is when we’re young – because there is always something new to learn and maybe sports is the educational tool that best speaks to you. There are countless examples of organizations that use sports education for social change, check out the links to the left under “Youth Sports Organizations”!

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