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The Indiana Daily Student

academics & research

IU team teaches extracurricular sports in Ghana

Many youth in rural Ghana lack access to school-sponsored programs that encourage involvement in healthy and productive activities. 

In an effort to combat this problem, Sarah Young, an associate professor in the School of Public Health’s Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Studies, recently began a project to bring after-school sports programs to students in Ghana.

The project, known as Youth Enrichment Sports-Ghana, is meant to promote participation in sports as a healthy distraction, and in turn helping underserved children in certain rural areas of the country avoid problems associated with substance abuse and sexually transmitted diseases, according to a press release.

“I think the research is pretty clear that kids who are involved in sports are less likely to engage in risky behavior,” Young said. “They’re more likely to lead a healthy lifestyle.”

The project was set in motion when Young and her colleagues were notified of a two-year grant from the U.S. Department of State to fund a SportsUnited International Sports Programming Initiative in one of about 30 countries.

“It’s not very often that you see grants that involve some kind of a sport,” Young said.

Young and Craig Ross, a professor in the School of Public Health, decided to apply for the grant. Although YES-Ghana is only in its beginning stages, Young said the researchers involved have already begun to make progress.

The team includes researchers from within the School of Public Health and other departments to bring specialized fields of study to the program, Young said.

Young said they chose Ghana in part because it is a democratic country.

One of the country’s primary languages is English, which lessens the problems and difficulties associated with a language barrier, Young said.

The team will be working with partners at the University of Cape Coast, the U.S. Embassy in Ghana and local government officials in Apewosika Township, a rural area along the Gulf of Guinea.

Schools in Ghana have recreational sports programs, but they are focused in metropolitan areas, Young said.

To change that, researchers hope to bring to Ghana the “sport-for-all” concept that exists in recreational sports in the U.S., Ross said.

“When you think of sport-for-all, what does that really mean?” Ross said. “What it really means is sport for everyone, regardless of your physical ability. So you may be a below-average athlete. You don’t have to be the elite.”

The IU team also hopes students in Ghana will be able form a common bond through shared sports, Young and Ross said.

“I think what is exciting to me is it’s a wonderful opportunity to highlight the global impact of sports and especially recreational sports can have around the world,” Ross said. “We’re using basketball, we’re using soccer, we’re using volleyball and we’re doing all kinds of wonderful things for the residents in that community in Ghana that need help and assistance.”

During Thanksgiving Break in November, Young and three of her colleagues will travel to Ghana to talk with its in-country partners and local officials, scope out the area and interview potential coaches for the positions.

“We are in close contact with the U.S. Embassy in Ghana,” Young said. “We can rely heavily on them as well as our in-country partners to advertise for this project and advertise for qualified applicants to apply.”

After interviews, the team will select 16 coaches who will travel to the U.S. in May for a two-week training session in Bloomington.

All of the researchers in the project will be playing a large role in training, organizing and managing that two-week program, Young said.

During their training period, coaches will be participating in development and leadership education sessions and learning how to coach and officiate the three sports, Young said.

She said the IU team will help to share American culture with the coaches by taking them on tours of sports facilities and bringing them to observe youth sports leagues.

“It’s designed as a train-the-trainer,” Ross said. “And it just keeps going.”

The team has plans to return to Ghana in May 2015 to reassess the effectiveness of its coaches and programs.

“We want to do that with the youth as well — teach them sportsmanship, teach them character building,” Ross said. “Teach them all the things that sports provide that our youth are all used to.”

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