Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 20th 2015 Contents A48
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Monday, July 20, 2015
Religion has had both positive and
negative relationships with sports.
On one hand, both religion and
sports have been built upon a positive
ethos of commitment to hard work,
personal sacrifice, fairness and
They both incorporate the use of
rituals and customs and it is common
to see the invocation of God in train-
ing, team meetings and in the cele-
bration of success and even failure.
On the other hand, it has been
argued that the spirit of competitive
sports have sometimes weakened the
spiritual bond of people both as active
and passive participants.
In the Christian-dominated US,
Woods (2007) argues that religion
has been used as a means to justify
American preoccupation with sports.
Not only is sports seen as having
an appeal to God, it has also been a
means through which religious bodies
have used sports to reinforce its mem-
For instance, Woods (2007) cites
the Young Men s Christian Associa-
tion (YMCA), secondary schools such
as Christ the King and universities
such as Oral Roberts University use
sports through the provision of sport-
ing facilities and excellent sporting
programmes to attract new members,
students and even donors.
Amara (2008) cites that sports have
been able to mobilise nationalist sup-
port throughout the Muslim world
cutting across class, gender and sec-
tarian differences. She argues that
modern sports and Islam can coexist
in the same world.
However, she claims that sports
have to be seen as a site for the nego-
tiation of differences which can
enhance cross cultural experiences.
This approach has the potential to
minimise the clash of western and
traditional value systems which has
been the source of some of the con-
troversies in sports participation as
it relates to the athletes from the
In an in-depth study of eight
schools in West Midlands, England,
to gain an understanding as to why
Muslim girls were withdrawing from
physical education, Dagakasa et al
(2011) concluded that religious con-
cerns of the girls needed to be incor-
porated into the schools policies as
well as in its physical education pro-
Some of the specific problems that
were identified by the students and
their parents were the lack of flexible
dress codes especially as it related to
the wearing of the hijab and the use
of public swimming pools.
Dagakasa et al (2011) argued that
a more embracing sport policy would
allow for the inclusion of Muslim
girls. As studies have been conducted
elsewhere in the world, the same has
to be done in Trinidad and Tobago
and the wider Caribbean.
The benefits of understanding this
link can be multiple and everlasting
especially in a society that is highly
differentiated along religious lines.
As research has indicated, females
are more likely than males to be
restricted from participating in sports
and physical activities as they are
expected to be the prime bearers of
religious values and practices.
Outside of engaging in sports and
physical activities for recreational and
fun reasons, many talented persons
may be discouraged from taking part
in sports seriously because of insen-
sitivities to religious diversity in exist-
ing sporting programmes.
As such in formal settings such as
schools, once a proper understanding
of how religious beliefs and practices
impact upon how students view and
engage sports, proper intervention
strategies can be undertaken.
These strategies can be helpful to
physical education teachers, parents
and most importantly the students.
Local religious organisations must
also look to put greater effort at
encouraging their followers young
and old to participate in sports and
Not only would such activities ben-
efit the individuals personally but
collectively it can be a means through
which religious groups can further
connect with their members.
As much as competition and win-
ning is important, sports can also me
a good means through which religious
bodies can teach important life lessons
to their members.
At the end of the day it would not
be surprising if some sport admin-
istrators claim that religion is not
However, many international gov-
erning bodies are adopting measures
that reflect some degree of under-
standing of religious differences of
sportswomen and men.
A perfect example of this is the
decision by FIFA to allow for religious
head wear to be worn by players. Such
a move not only recognises the dif-
ference in religious beliefs but also
paves the way for more persons to
come forward to participate in foot-
Religion when combined with other
variables such as social class, family,
school and community does impact
on the level and extent of participa-
tion in sport and physical activities.
As such the various sporting
authorities and researchers should
embark upon gaining a deeper under-
standing of the connection between
religion and sports as it can best serve
the overall good of the society.
Religion, sport can
serve good of society
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