Children who actively participate in sport are more likely to have good life skills, as well have high self-esteem, feel empowered and be well-equipped leaders, according to findings of a recent study.
UNICEF joined up with the Barca Foundation to study the link between exercise and child development, looking at data from more than 300 sport for development (S4D) programmes in 100 countries worldwide.
The Getting into the Game: Understanding the Evidence for Child-Focused Sport for Development report found sport contributes significantly to a youngster’s future prospects.
UNICEF’s deputy executive director Charlotte Petri Gornitzka said: “It’s long been understood that sport promotes children’s health and physical development, but now we have solid evidence to suggest that sport can have a powerful impact on their overall education and life skills development.”
She went on to say this evidence must be used to “inspire investment in sports for children”.
The report also found that for S4D initiatives to be successful, there needs to be co-operation from several sectors, including education and social services.
It also revealed that coaches play a crucial role at encouraging, protecting and motivating children.
Netball is one great sport that builds confidence in children; encourages them to work as a team; boosts hand-eye co-ordination and footwork; and, most importantly, enables them to have fun with their friends. Netball coaching courses are also valuable for teaching youngsters about commitment and practising new skills.
The UNICEF findings concluded that while the greatest barriers to sport among children in Africa was poverty, it was more likely to be physical and learning disabilities in Europe and Central Asia.
S4D names structural inequality and inaccessible sites as some of its biggest challenges to social inclusion for all children.