My childhood experience showed me how life-changing sports can be

Growing up in Santa Cruz, St Elizabeth, we would play anything that involved competition: from hopscotch, jacks, marbles and racing handmade wooden trucks to more traditional sports like cricket, football, track and even bicycle racing down the lane. As the youngest, I always had to be playing catch up to my bigger, stronger, faster brother and cousins.

Fast forward a few years to Munro College for high school, I got to run in the 100 metres for sports day which is a big thing for us. I just ran as hard as I could, no training, nothing. I placed second. I vividly remember a senior member of the track team walking up to tell me: “Make sure you come to track Monday.”

I remember finishing that race feeling like I had won and I got an instant boost of self-confidence because I was really reserved and shy as a teenager.

Representing Munro College gave me my first trip to Kingston and the first time I had ever travelled on a plane. I got to feel first-hand that rush sport can give you and then that pride it gives your family, especially when you are doing well – it means the world to a child.

I carry these life lessons with me until this day:

  1. In all things try and give your best effort because you never know who is watching and what they are looking for.
  2. Always be willing to try something new as you may discover what your true calling is, or that effort could lead to a life changing experience.
  3. Always be ready, because you don’t know when an opportunity will be coming your way.
  4. Have faith in your abilities even when you don’t see them yet.

As the Programme Coordinator for the UNICEF-supported UP Unity & Peace programme, coordinated by Fight for Peace, my goal is for the young people in the communities we work in to learn these same lessons.

As a part of our programme, access to structured, positive sports and physical activity help youth keep fit and also gives them an avenue where they can de-stress, be less likely to be recruited by gangs and – most importantly – learn life skills that will help them to grow as individuals and help them to tackle obstacles throughout life.

Discipline, respect, communication, critical thinking, teamwork, patience, conflict resolution and leadership – these are some of the main transferable skills sport teaches our young people. Sport also gives youth the confidence to believe they can achieve success because they are able to see their progress in what others see as difficult.

Fight for Peace works with our partners to use sport as the hook, then addresses the whole person, teaching them to navigate strengths and weaknesses in the context of sport and how it translates to their personal lives. During sport, young people are better able to relate to the messages and lessons relayed by a coach, and by using something they love, they are more willing to stick to it when it gets challenging and demanding.

For the young people we work with, their physical response and verbal feedback tells us that sport for them is so much more than a game. It’s a release and a positive part of their lives that can help shape the rest of their lives.

That is what we work towards in implementing the UP Unity & Peace Programme.

Video from 2019:


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