It’s easy to see sport simply as quite literally fun and games – a way to keep fit, a knockabout-yet-healthy way to have a good time. But the power of sport, and its immense propensity for social good, is becoming increasingly apparent – and there is a gaping void to be filled by community and local grassroots sports clubs.
The Decimation of Youth Clubs and Facilities in the UK
Since 2010, English councils have slashed 62% – more than £700m – from their spending on youth services, while nearly 800 youth clubs have closed since 2012, according to analysis by Unison. In London alone, the number of youth clubs has nearly halved since the 2011 riots.
Sports Clubs Can Fill The Gap
Issues with young people do not happen in a vacuum. There are children all over the country, but particularly in inner city areas, that are set adrift by the ever-diminishing number of spaces that simply allow kids to be kids. This is where local sports clubs can step in and make a real difference.
In the words of the UN:
Sport as a universal language can be a powerful tool to promote peace, tolerance and understanding by bringing people together across boundaries, cultures and religions. Its intrinsic values such as teamwork, fairness, discipline, respect for the opponent and the rules of the game are understood all over the world and can be harnessed in the advancement of solidarity, social cohesion and peaceful coexistence.
Sport programmes permit encounters on neutral territory and in an environment where aggression can be controlled, regulated and transformed and hence facilitates rapprochement and reconciliation between opposing parties.
Although sport alone cannot stop or solve an acute conflict, it represents a flexible and cost-effective medium for post-conflict relief work and peace building as well as conflict prevention. The United nations
So now is surely the time for local sports clubs to step up their efforts, increase their visibility locally and look to recruit greater numbers.
What Your Club Can Do To Increase Visibility and Recruit
Posters and flyers in local shops and small businesses is one fairly straightforward way of getting the word out there. Most will be happy to oblige, since a local football or hockey club is clearly no threat or rival to, say, your local butchers.
Social media is another; while many clubs don’t have a great deal of spare cash knocking about, for a few quid you can pay to target your Facebook posts to very specific demographics in your local area. Perhaps entice new recruits with an offer of some kind – a free week or two, for example. You can even ask existing parents at the club to post on their own social media channels – an honest and simple way of getting the word out about the club.
We live in testing times, especially for our children, and we know sport truly has the power to transform lives. So while everyone connected to junior sports clubs wants our children to simply play and love sport, it’s perhaps time to think a little bit bigger, to think how we can use the tools at our disposal to not only give them somewhere to have a game of football, netball, hockey or cricket, but to actively help transform their lives for the better.
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