Sport as a Model for Social Change: Who Benefits?

Nexos Comunitarios, is a Peruvian non-profit civil association, formed by a group of citizens and professionals committed to education and reducing poverty in isolated communities within Peru.

Nexos Comunitarios Logo Source: Nexos Comunitarios

Nexos believes that skills such as leadership, teamwork, resilience, impartiality, effort, respect, responsibility and compassion are strengthened through sport, allowing transfer and application of knowledge to the classroom and ultimately benefiting the child as a whole. Fast forward, and I’m signing my commitment to travel to Peru to join Nexos and participate in their program.

Nexos Long Term Development Model (Source: Nexos Comunitarios)

I argue that service learning programs have the potential to serve diverse functions for all constituents: students, institutions, and recipients alike. However, to be effective, service learning must embody certain characteristics:

The program should be designed to accentuate the matching of goals and activities

There was a clear interest in soccer in the majority of the children that participated in the program; that was absolutely clear. But what about the minority? I found many of the young children would observe rather than participate, which concerned me. Canada has a Long Term Athlete Development (LTAD) Model laid out by Sport for Life. I found that many of the children were behind in development, especially in the FUNdamental stage. I often left the soccer field to find children sitting by themselves where I would then try to engage with them whether sport was involved or not, and focused more on the active start, or FUNdamental skill development stage.

Long Term Athlete Development Model (Source: Pacific Sport: Vancouver Island)

The program must provide opportunities for reflection

I found myself deviating from other peoples opinions during the reflection periods and advocated for more choice. This is when I realized that I was the only person in the room that was a Human Kinetics student, so I understood that my educational background was unique. I did not believe that other people’s opinions were wrong, or that my personal opinion was better than anyone else’s. However, I realized that I could utilize the education I have received and dedicate it to the experience of the minority group.

Reflection activities serve to link the connection between theory and experience.

You can learn about what it is like to use sport in theory as a stepping stone for social change in a classroom, but it will never compare to experience. Sport can be used as a vehicle for social change; I have no doubt about it. I watched the children of Cancuni become more confident in their abilities and their physical literacy sky-rocket. However, until you experience sport as a method of social change through experience instead of theory, one cannot assume sport is a segue to solving all of the world’s problems.

Erica Robertson

Featured Image: St. FX ISL Logo (Source: St. Francis Xavier University Immersion Service Learning)

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