The Person You Will Be In The Future Is Based On Everything You Do Today.

See Why Sports Is The Only Essential Means Of Youth Development And Empowerment

school youth playing rugby
Before I start this post, let me give you a little something to do. You may call it a test or any other thing that suits you but its definitely not a prank.

Go to your parents or guardian and tell them that you want to do that sport they know you like to do as a profession. Don't tell me their response, I know what they said... cool.

Against the backdrop of the quantum leap in the unemployment ratio in Nigeria today, sports has emerged a veritable means of youth empowerment and development. To say the least, gone surely are the days when sports lovers were seen as nonentities in this part of the world. It has become obvious that many youths are struggling to eke out a living after many years in school, some privileged youths have found safe haven in sports.

It is only recently that some parents began to acknowledge sports as a decent means of gaining livelihood. An honest investigation into the role sporting activities play in bringing up the future leaders of this nation therefore seems quit apropos. Youthful stage is a period of vitality. But it is also a stage filled with unrest, anxieties and uncertainties. It is a period in life that clamors for expression.

Sports readily provide the environment needed for self expression unto authentic development. This short write up is poised to explore the meaning, benefits and challenges of sports in the holistic developmental emancipation of our youths.


Youth empowerment simply refers to a process where children and young people are encouraged to take charge of their lives. They learn to do that by addressing their situations and then taking action in order to improve their access to resources and transform their consciousness through their belief, values and attitudes. Generally, youth empowerment programmes seeks to improve the quality of the lives of the youths. This is achieved through participation in youth empowerment programmes like sports.

Youth empowerment is somehow distinct from youth development. This is because, according to Meredith King in Youth Empowerment: the Theory and its implementation, while the former is centered on developing individuals, the latter focuses on creating a greater community. Change relies on the development of individuals and collective capacities.


An old latin maxim says: mens sana in corpora sano (a healthy mind (is) in a healthy body). Indeed, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, says an English proverb. From time immemorial, sports as an aspect of physical exercise have always been recognized as an important avenue for the holistic emancipation of youths.

The ancient Greek cities of Athens and Sparta recognized well the importance of sports in the lives of their youth. Hence, they never joked with athletics and charioting. The Olympics games that has lingered to our times bear testimony to the values attached to this phenomenon. Another example that readily comes to mind is the case of Spartan games.

Spartan youths, both boys and girls exercised very often, and that made them at a point better than their counterparts in Athens. Spartan girls exercised much more than their Athenian counterparts, and sports was an important aspect of their education. Hellenistic philosophies attached great significance on athletic performance.

A leader's athletic prowess, according to the view of the time, reflected their ability to lead. Hence sports was seen as an epistemic endeavor; a methodological process by the objective truth of a person's athletic potential is actualized.


John Wooden, a legendary basketball coach once said that 'sport do not just build character; they reveal it'. Sports in general constitute a very necessary aspect of youth development and empowerment. Some people think that the only benefits of sports are physically oriented. But that is only a misguided statement. Sporting activities are not only meant to develop eye - hand orientation and burning calories. Its other numerous benefits range from physiological through psychological and economic.

In his book titled The Pros and Cons of Youth Sports Participation, Joseph Luxbacher outlines some of the psychological values of sports to young people. Luxbacher calls these values the Five Cs and they include competence, confidence, connection, character and caring. Each of these qualities is necessary for a holistic development of the youths. Achieving competence in sports finds good translation in other areas of life.

Competence generates self confidence and confidence in others. Added to that fact is that youths who engage in sports together achieve some interpersonal bonding and connection among themselves, - a phenomenon that can prolong well into adulthood. Studies show that about 70% of adult men feel closer to their high school sports team mates than other school mates.

Life sustaining virtues such as team spirit, discipline of training, resilience and determination to succeed amidst challenges are just but a few of the psychological benefits gained in the pitch or field of play. Other values include time management of planning ahead, honesty, respect and appreciation of interpersonal diversity.

Furthermore, sports events are very necessary for teaching the young people how to manage challenges. The youths learn therein to believe in their capabilities, while realizing that mistake acceptable in life phenomena. It is to this that J.J Okocha, the Nigerian play maker alluded with his famous maxim: "Always believe in your capabilities". More so, by experiencing both the joy of victory and pain of loss in competitions, these youths are taught the skills for handling success and failure in life.

Youth sports equally have an avalanche of health benefits. Regular sports burns calories, strengthens the bones and reduces obesity among other things. Researchers have established that young people who do not exercise themselves fall easy prey to ailments and generally slower in their reasoning. A healthy and sharp mind is found in a healthy body.

The ancient sages never missed this when they stated that mens sana in corpora sano. Young people who engage in sporting activities enjoy the fun therein. They participate in physical fitness in a way that is at the same time challenging and fun, and establish long lasting health habits. What is more, they prepare for themselves a beehive of healthy adulthood. Sports make one agile and responsive to one's environment. The recreational nature of sports makes it indeed necessary for healthy living. All work and no play they say, makes Jack a dull boy.

In its social dimension, youth sports are catalysts that help to build up interpersonal relationships. It provides integral interactive sessions among youths, whereby they showcase their characters. These enable them to be corrected and encouraged while it is still possible. This invariably entails that coaches should be men and women of dependable character and proven integrity.

Many, if not all the things learn in the pitch are translated into life situations off the pitch. There is no much dichotomy between a person's character as a sportsman and that same person's character in other areas like leadership and business. Instead, because of the passion involved, sports afford the youths the opportunity to manifest who they really are, and work towards improvement. Youth sports empower youths to be appreciative of others around them.

A good sportsman does not play foul, knowing that the end does not the means. It is this same mindset inculcated in the youths through sports that they will carry into business and leadership positions later in their lives. So, sports are very beneficial in teaching team spirit of camaraderie, trust and a whole lot of other social virtues.

Lastly, as means to financial independence, youth sports have emerged in recent times as one of the best ways of youth economic emancipation both at the state, national and international levels. Many Nigerian youths have witnessed economic breakthroughs thanks to their athletic ability and sportsmanship. Prominent examples that readily come to mind include J.J Okocha, Kanu Nwankwo, Mohammed Ali, Chioma Ajunwa, Mikel Obi and a host of others.

The financial benefits of sports is not even limited just to sports men and women. Many Nigerian youths today benefit immensely from sports. These include such groups like the owners of sports viewing centers where sports lovers gather to watch televised national and international matches, sports betting and sport analysis. Let me quickly point out, however, that sports betting, as a gambling activity, should be discouraged among our youths.


Sports in their various categories are of immensely fundamental benefits for youth development and empowerment. One good thing about them is that their benefits are at the same time psychological, physical and economic. Many good life sustaining values are learn in sports. Unfortunately, the mad rush after academic certificates among Nigerian youths today sometimes discourages some who would have preferred to make sportsmanship a career. Is it not high time we youth sought alternative means of empowering and developing ourselves?

Surely, basic education is good for all. Ignorance is a vice. Really speaking, education and acquisition of certificates are good. But youths who are skilled in sporting activities should be encouraged to take up that aspect of life where they are competent. This will reduce the number of unemployment and crimes in the country.

People in various leadership positions should support the youths to discover the area of life they are most competent in, and help them actualize their dreams and become self reliant. It is rather unfortunate that many highly talented sportsmen in our country are discouraged from fanning their talents into flame, competing favorably with the likes of Lionel Andrés Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Pirlo, Diego Maradona, Pele, to mention but a few.


  1. sports is very good to the health, my granny looks quite young because she is a sports lady, lol.

    1. Wah?! Granny still looking young? How old is she?


DISCLAIMER: Comments are of the opinions of the person who commented; John-King hand no dey.