By Aliyah Bayali
Sports have been widely acknowledged as a tool with the potential to contribute significantly to efforts at giving children a healthy start.
Sports have also been recognized as a tool for making key life transitions successfully while research has established that developing the youth through sports will help prevent and address youth delinquency and crime.
There is also considerable evidence to suggest that young persons who participate in sports are less likely than non-participants to engage in delinquent behaviour and that an active youth will not engage in anti-social behaviour, leading to reduced rates of crime.
Available evidence further suggests that the knowledge, life skills, health, and physical abilities generally developed through appropriate sport experiences can benefit participants by improving their chances of finding employment, raising their level of income and making them more optimistic and willing to volunteer in the community.
This view is reinforced by the International Labour Organization (ILO) which analyzed the overlap between life skills developed through sport participation and skills identified by labour market research as important to employers in diverse countries.
In addition to the many transferable employability skills that can be acquired through sport, well-designed sport programmes also build ethically based attributes in young people-- volunteering, commitment to teamwork and team building, tolerance and acceptance of rules --that employers value.
The 2005 Conference Board of Canada's Report on the socio-economic benefits of sport participation indicates that sports is an important tool through which the participants, particularly young people, gain and enhance a range of skills that are transferable to important parts of adult life.
Young workers entering the labour force with sport-specific skills are likely to be well-equipped with creativity, team building and, most of all, peaceful, and tolerant behaviour in the face of cultural diversity, a trait increasingly valued in today's diverse workplaces.
Sport, therefore, offers an important avenue for creating employment opportunities for the youth.
The benefits of sports also include the acquisition of leadership skills and attributes like perseverance, social and moral character, self-esteem, commitment to teamwork, problem-solving, and organizational ability.
It is, therefore, important that the youth are given the opportunity right from the basic education level because the quality and effectiveness of sport and physical education programmes are largely determined by the teachers and coaches involved.
In other words, the role of training in helping to ensure that sports and physical education programmes are appropriately focused on healthy development cannot be underestimated.
This is what Mr Ban Ki Moon, United Nations Secretary-General, says of sports: "Sport has become a world language, a common denominator that breaks down all the walls, all the barriers. It is a worldwide industry whose practices can have widespread impact. Most of all, it is a powerful tool for progress and for development."
It is important to note, however, that besides football, there are many other sporting activities such as swimming, weightlifting and cricket, for example, which the youth can be encouraged to patronize for their physical development and as a source of earning a living.
While the Government of Ghana is willing to seek partnership, wherever possible, to leverage resources necessary to advance the objective of training the youth in all aspects of sports and creating jobs both at local and international level for all, it is the responsibility of parents and guardians to encourage their children to embrace sports as an avenue for equipping the youth mentally, physically, and as a source of livelihood.