As late as 2016, unemployment, poverty, social exclusion, and drug use were among the topmost challenges facing the youth in Europe. A disturbing number of young people were also neither in education nor any form of training. These are pretty much the same problems facing youths in different countries and continents; including the former Soviet Union, parts of Europe, Turkey, and much of Africa. While efforts are being made to ensure youths are educated and employed; talent development should also be an area of focus to help youths cope and rise out of poverty and the evils associated with it. Promotion of sports such as baseball, basketball, and soccer is one the ways to change the lives of youths.
That sports can change lives is evidenced by star players who rose from humble backgrounds to succeed. Though this narrative does not apply to all talented players of different sports, engagement in it can indeed result in social change. Here’s how baseball and other sports can help change the lives of the youth.
An alternative source of fun
Poverty and the problems it brings with it have the ability to drive youth into substance abuse. For many youths, this is a misguided attempt to feel happiness and a sense of freedom, though momentary, from the problems that plague them. Sports are an alternative fun activity that gives the youth something positive to think about and engage in, other than the problems they face. Psychologists also link sports especially endurance sports to the reduction of stress. It also has physical health benefits.
An environment to develop friendships
Sports bring people of different races, tribes, and even social class together. In that field, youth can learn to compete in a friendly manner and see each other in a different light. Dressed in like sets of baseball uniforms, youths are able to see their team members as equals and forget their differences at least for the duration of the games. Over time this becomes the norm. It also presents an opportunity to form strong bonds of friendship and loyalty that might be difficult to cultivate in an environment where everyone is struggling to survive. It promotes acceptance and inclusion and an environment where meaningful discussions and mentorship can also take place more freely.
An opportunity to cultivate discipline, hard work and resilience
All sports including baseball have universal rules that must be followed. They also require one to exert themselves often beyond their comfort zone. As youths engage in sports, they are likely to learn the principles of discipline and hard work. They also build physical and mental strength. Excellence in sports even if it is at a local level with no monetary gains also helps to build confidence and self-esteem among the youth. During a baseball, game players have to deal with losing to the opposing team. They learn to take failure in their stride, learn from it and bounce back stronger. It can foster resilience among the youth. These are qualities they can apply outside the field.
How to help
Individuals, organization, and governments can help change the lives of youths by ensuring that they have access to a safe space to play, shoes to protect their feet, sets of uniforms, and caps and helmets for their heads. By doing this, they can contribute to a healthier, happier youth and provide, even if it is for a few youths; a ticket out of a life of poverty, exclusion, and substance abuse.