The vagaries of youth make for a very tumultuous experience in the lives of young adults world over. But add in layers of poverty, lack of education, unemployment, marginalization, discrimination, loneliness, lack of family and social support systems and you have yourself a potent cocktail that makes for easy recruitment into radicalisation and violent extremism. The afore-mentioned are but a few of the factors that contribute to the complex web that makes the youth easy targets for recruitment into violent extremism. One of the ways that has been put forth is to leverage sports as it has the potential to prevent radicalization, facilitate integration and build resilience among the youth.
“The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Security Council resolution 2419 (2018) recognize the “growing contribution of sport and culture to the realization of development and peace in the promotion of tolerance and respect,” and the contributions that “sport and culture make to the empowerment of youth and women, individuals and communities as well as to health, education and social inclusion objectives.”
Coaches play an important mentorship and guidance role in their teams as they spend the most time with their charges, fostering positive relationships between the youth and adults.
Sports in its very nature has the power to: transcend cultural, social, economic, international and political boundaries; connect diverse youth and widen their reach and tolerance; promote the respect for rules and build teamwork and provide a sense of belonging among others. Coaches play an important mentorship and guidance role in their teams as they spend the most time with their charges, fostering positive relationships between the youth and adults. The youth also get to develop and practice communication skills, patience, delayed gratification, value of hard work and other life skills that all tie in to increase resilience among young people thereby reducing their vulnerability to radicalization and violent extremism.
The National Strategy to Counter Violent Extremism in Kenya outlines ways in which different stakeholders can counter violent extremism (CVE). Among the listed stakeholders are communities and citizens who have an important role to play in local CVE initiatives. Sports are not played in isolation. The buy in from communities is imperative to the successful utilization of sports as a tool for gaining access to often marginalized youth in order to encourage and boost engagement and broaden impact of preventing violent extremism. Sports alone cannot sort out all the deep rooted social issues that plague the youth but can be used as an integral starting point in combination with other efforts to prevent violent extremism within marginalized communities.