Developing Youth around the World through Recreation and Sport

by Erika E.

Throughout all cultures we see a difference within all aspects of life, but when it comes to youth there are some extremes and some rare similarities. When specifically looking at recreation and sport, there are some cultures that value unstructured play and hard work and other cultures, such as South America, that tend to put emphasis on sport and team building1. These two cultures both have many positive aspects on child and youth development but may also have negative implications.

I took a look at Ghana and tried to understand how similar and different their culture and our Western culture are. When reading about adolescence in Ghana, in the International Encyclopedia of Adolescence, it seems that health risk and gender distinctions seem to be prevailing factors youth1. Most children struggle with tobacco and alcohol use, 19% of adolescents smoke and another 14% had tried cigarettes before1. In comparison, Statistics Canada shows that only 4% of Canadian youth smoke and 13% have ever tried it2. Therefore, are we able to associate this with how much children are being exposed to tobacco use or is it due to the education and prevention that our Western culture has been working hard at? This may include sport and recreation; if we are able to keep youth active and healthy, they may be less likely to smoke or use alcohol. As I am sure most of the regions and communities in Ghana are not oblivious to the idea of sport and recreation being a positive influence, but there may not be much time or money for organized sports and activities. If they would be able to implement this or educate parents about the importance of play, maybe the percentage of youth smoking would decrease.

Now, when it comes to gender distinction in Ghana, there seems to be a lot of separation. In our Western culture we are used to attending the same school and even participating in sport with the other-sex. In Ghana there seems to be the separation of genders at an early age, and are taught gender specific roles1. In some parts of the country boys and girls go to different school due to the fear of sexual immortality1. This does not allow girls and boys to play together, and if the youth is not used to how each individual thinks and acts; how are the youth expected to know how to interact with each other when it comes time for marriage? Within Canadian culture, we are expected to play with both boys and girls on most sports teams, in early childhood, are mixed teams. This encourages interpersonal skills, problem solving with other-sex and the understanding of the other-sex.

I was directed to this video that encouraged me to write this blog post. I think that it is important for us to start to really realize the important things in life, and for me one of them is education and the other is sport. I grew up with a good amount of structured and unstructured play that has allowed me to become the person I am today. If we would have grown up in a country like Ghana who knows where we would be; would we still be sitting in this classroom becoming tomorrow’s leaders in sport and recreation or would we be living in a country with a potential lower socioeconomic status and doing everything we can to provide for our family? We simply need to think about all the good that play, recreation and sport have brought to our lives, and why not help make the world of recreation and sport a better place by including more people in countries all over the world.

Erika Ermen

Video (First World Problems Read by Third World Kids):

  1. Arnett, J.J. (2007). Ghana. In International Encyclopedia of Adolescence. (Vol. 1, p. 344-353). New York, NY: Taylor & Francis Group.
  2. Statistics Canada. (2014). Summary of Results of the youth Smoking Survey. Retrieved from:
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3 Responses to Developing Youth around the World through Recreation and Sport

  1. Julie macfarlane says:

    Great Post Erika,
    When learning about all the things that are beneficial for youths development like structured and unstructured play, we sometimes forget that youth in others parts of the world do not have the opportunities that we have had. I agree with your view on how important structured and unstructured play is for positive youth development and that it should be incorporated into the development of children around the world. Knowing how to interacted with peers, having youths voices heard, seeing youth as assets, remembering that children need to have fun and feel safe are all important aspects of youth development that should be taken into consideration. The skill and assets that children gain for play are important in developing well-rounded adults and can like you said possibly even reduce unhealthy behaviours. I think that providing youth and youth leader around the world with the tools and recourses to promote positive youth development through play would be very beneficial at reducing unhealthy habits and negative development. Thinking about youth and their development not only in our own communities but thinking of youth from all over well help to create a better future.

    Julie M

  2. madelineakennedy says:

    I think this is a very interesting post topic.

    Sport and recreation are very important for youth development, but I think there are a couple things to remember when talking about other countries. Firstly, like Canada, there is almost always great variation within the country itself. Ghana, for example, has mixes of rural and urban, some areas facing the problems you discussed, and other areas not at all.

    It is also important to remember that our values in Canada are not always their values. While we may see the importance in male and female interaction, they may see it as not important. As an outsider country, we need to respect this. This being said, I think that sport and recreation are valued within most cultures (although their perception of recreation may be different than ours).

    I really enjoyed the video you linked to, I think it has a very powerful message, and is an effective way of raising awareness. As an outside country, we can provide aid in starting up recreation and sport programs, but we need to ensure that we are not making any assumptions in what they need.

    Madeline K.

  3. mfergunb says:

    Great post Erika. Kudos to the person who directed you to this video!

    It definitely opens your eyes to how much we take for granted in our society. Whether it be health care, education or recreation/sport opportunities, it is important to use what we have to our full potential. As you touched upon, we are so privileged to have mixed-gendered play and sports teams. Obviously, gender inequality is on a whole other level in various parts of the world; therefor, it is so important that we use what gender equality we have to our advantage when it comes to recreation and sport. While I realize all school systems are different, I firmly believe in having mixed-gendered physical education classes. This not only allows youth to interact with peers of the opposite sex, but also to learn how to be compete, communicate and cooperate with them as well; characteristics that are useful in our everyday lives.

    I completely agree that we should realize what tools we have to encourage other countries to become active, and share the benefits that result from sport and recreation. Using what we have either through leadership, education, sports equipment and/or other necessities, we can promote this not only locally, but on a much larger scale as well.

    – Meagan F.

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