Fields of dreams

My fondest memories of my youth are those of my sporting past.

Admittedly it was in Nelson, so there were very few weekends where it rained.

But as a coach of a Division 7 football team in Brooklyn, its been a frustrating year with the weather. All to often grounds are closed or games are called off. This is understandable, as its better not to cut the grounds up and miss out on training or not be able to play on those very same grounds for another week or more.

But wouldn’t it be nice if we had better grounds for our junior footballers, rugby players, and hockey teams. I don’t think I am alone in suggesting that it would be a fantastic idea to offer an astro turf for junior players, or substantially improve drainage. Tanera Park in Brooklyn has 3 dedicated junior fields and would be an ideal candidate for such development.

But why should we invest substantial sums of money in improving our playing fields for our youth?

Clearly there is the potential for cost savings, both in water savings and maintenance costs. But the other important factor is youth engagement. And developing playing fields that can be used regularly, is one plank in a much wider youth engagement strategy.

In the UK they have developed a national activity-based social inclusion programme for young people called “positive futures”. It uses sports programs to engage youth (and their families) in positive activities. Steering kids away from crime, graffiti, drugs, and alcohol misuse. There are also other programmes that I have outlined in an earlier posting about our youth.

Providing fields should be part of a wider strategy to provide our youth positive avenues to express themselves and to meet life long friends. Collaboration and partnership with clubs and schools is an equally important part of this strategy. Council needs to provide support in governance and marketing of the various sporting codes — to enable clubs to be attractive options for our youth. And perhaps through collaboration with clubs and other agencies costs can also be shared. The council should not just be a bank. It needs to also be a facilitator of action.

If we can engage our youth early in sports programmes, as they have done in the UK, we too might see a rapid decline in graffiti and youth crime. But it requires a much more proactive approach from our council — that to date we have not seen. In fact the opposite is true. Council youth resources have been under invested and stretched due to financial pressure and funding reductions.

Sadly the impression is that investment in our youth has not received the attention it deserves from our council. And we are seeing it manifest itself in crime, graffiti, and alcohol misuse.

We need to change this.

Its about our youth.,,,


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