By Rev. James Stephenson
Sport has come a long way from its origins as a pastime whose primary purpose was entertainment for the leisured classes.
Of course, it still plays a vital part in fitness, recreation and team building for everyone, but over the years, it has also evolved into a multi-billion-dollar industry with massive influence on the global economy.
Experts agree that like mining, sport – if properly harnessed – can have a strong multiplier effect on the local economy in terms of growing sub-sectors like sports agencies, media, and equipment suppliers – all of which create indirect employment opportunities.
Aside from this, large sporting events often lead to the proliferation of supporting businesses like refreshments and curio venders with benefits extending to local tour operators, transporters, hotels, and restaurants.
For youths in developing countries like Zambia, sport is more than just a means to stay active and healthy; it represents a possible route out of poverty through employment.
It is, for this reason that First Quantum Minerals, (FQM) through its Kansanshi Sports Foundation, is supporting a variety of sporting disciplines in communities around its catchment area.
The mine’s goal is to work with local youths through sustainable partnerships that explore ways in which young people can build more fulfilling lives and careers; with sport serving as a catalyst for a positive mindset shift.
Investing in the future
A study by Professor Kevin Kniffin, a behavioural scientist at Cornell University, discovered that a young person who played sport in high school generally had a better employment outlook compared with those who had not participated in any athletics.
The publication, “Sports at Work: Anticipated and Persistent Correlations of Participation in High School Athletics” also found that high school athletes generally performed better in their careers while displaying stronger leadership skills, confidence, and self-esteem.
Based on the evidence presented by studies like Professor Kniffin’s, it appears basic values like mental strength, hard work, constant self-improvement, hunger for success and perseverance in the face of adversity that are ingrained in athletes through training tend to transfer to their daily lives hence setting them on a path to become ideal employees and strong leaders.
Therefore, investing in sport at grassroots level can have a profound impact on youth development not only in the context of a social setting, but also in terms of expanding their career prospects – resulting in a more productive society which in turn facilitates economic growth.
On the right track
In our intervention, we do not assume a leadership or donor role but rather position ourselves as an active partner to each member’s development.
Despite what our name may suggest, Kansanshi Sports Foundation is not here to teach anyone how to be fast – although we can accommodate for that if there is great talent.
Our mission is to let people explore themselves and dig within to discover the depth of their potential greatness by being the best version of themselves.
Time, expertise, compassion, vision, and love are the key attributes to our team’s intervention approach. It is these soft skills outside financial support that inspire, empower, and transform young people’s lives.
These transformations can be social, emotional, and economic. Therefore, sport, if approached and coached correctly, can help us build a ‘principle-based’ identity.
This is illustrated in how several Kansanshi Cycling team members have been rewarded with fantastic jobs at First Quantum Minerals after consistently displaying great determination, dedication, honesty, and outstanding work ethic for years with the cycling team – traits that speak to the mine’s values.
Further, a bright young boy in the rowing programme has landed a full scholarship for sixth form at Radley College, UK – a world renowned school. He hopes to make it into their first eight and be roared on by a 15,000 strong crowd at Henley Royal Regatta, which is the biggest regatta in the world.
Despite these and several other success stories at Kansanshi Sports Foundation, more must be done if we are to fully exploit sport’s potential to transform young people’s lives and form a principle-based society.
Key to achieving this is the creation of strong partnerships between principal stakeholders.
In North-Western province, FQM has cultivated partnerships with the state, traditional leaders and youths from surrounding communities based on a shared desire to enhance young people’s chance at living a fulfilled life.
But as they say, ‘better never stops.’ As such we continue to pursue tighter relationships with more community and government leaders from other parts of the country so that together we can support and serve local communities and provide them with opportunities to transform themselves through sport.
Rev. James Stephenson is the Sports Coordinator Kansanshi Sports Foundation