Research Update: Using Recreation to Curb Extremism
Jamieson, Lynn M., Ross, Craig M., Parks & Recreation
Sports and recreation have been proven to be effective means of addressing peace building in the Middle East.
If young people-particularly young men-are uprooted, intolerant, jobless, and have few opportunities for positive engagement, they represent a ready pool of recruits for ethnic, religious, political extremists seeking to mobilize violence." (USAID, 2005)
In the wake of Sept. 11, there is increased interest on the part of the U.S. State Department to help stabilize societies and develop programs designed to help citizens become more aware of a sector of the world that is little understood-the Islamic nations of the Middle East. This interest has yielded many forms of cross-cultural exchanges, the extent of which has provided opportunities to look at the unique needs of many nations.
One such need has been in the area of youth recreational sport development that can to serve as a form of intervention to provide youth in nations of the Middle East with positive and constructive opportunities.
Because of a number of destabilizing factors in this region of the world, the Middle East region is constantly at risk for conflict. Using recreational sport as an intervention to prevent terrorism offers a more contemporary research area and one in which little systematic analysis has been conducted. Colliard and Henley (2005) report that "many organizations have been turning to sports and play programs to help the young by addressing social problems and facilitating peace building" (2005).
This kind of intervention can incorporate various models and initiatives. USAID (2005) suggests that youth service institutions need to provide group-based activities (sports, community service, education) that give participants a positive identity, group empowerment and acquisition of leadership, teamwork and self-governance skills under adult supervision (2005).
"The true effectiveness of using sport as an intervention to help children overcome suffering and distress is not in competition but in cooperation, not in winning or losing, but in the process of participating in a supportive group" (Colliard & Henley, 2005). Recreational sport programs should emphasize and focus on the total sport experience rather than just playing the game (Smith & Smoll, 1996).
Weatherburn and Baker (1999) reported results from an Australian study that examined self-reported crimes committed by more than 5,000 secondary school students. Referred to as transient offenders, these individuals committed crimes that included primary (first offender) and secondary (persistent offender) crimes such as assault during sport, assaults after sport, shoplifting, moped theft, malicious damage, receiving/selling stolen goods, and breaking and entering. The authors concluded that communities should establish long-term prevention through early childhood intervention as well as to use intelligent policing through development of a close partnership with the community.
In terms of the role of sport activities for young people and their impact on crime reduction, Lindval (2003) discovered a relationship between certain forms of public spending for recreation and leisure and crime reduction. Nichols and Crow (2004) concluded that sport programs may need to be developed with such impacts in mind, and that current programs are being developed "in an ad hoc manner based on environment." Thus, it is important to note that youth sport interventions need specific goals and outcome assessments to determine their success.
A study by Holden and Wilde (2004) about the role of soccer in the United Kingdom found that several community schemes showed the community-building features of one premier club.
It was found that this club may involve more individuals who might otherwise be excluded from sport if the club were not in existence. It was also concluded that "soccer clearly has great cultural value for some of the young people involved in the schemes we are currently examining. …