Does sport have the power to change the world?

Sport has the power to inspire, unite people from diverse backgrounds and create hope. It’s so much more than just a game. It can be a tool for transformation. 

Countless individuals have felt the life-changing impact of organised sport. Benefits include improved mental and emotional health, confidence, a sense of empowerment, connection and community. Imagine if the positive change experienced by one child could be magnified to an entire community. Do you think it’s possible? We do.

To help answer this question, we’ve reached out to some of your favourite rugby players, supporters and our ambassadors. We asked:

Does sport have the power to change the world?

“Sport has the ability to empower an individual…”

  • Emily Chancellor, ChildFund Ambassador and Wallaroo

I think sport is an invaluable tool. It provides so many benefits – improving physical health benefits, development of social skills, fine and gross motor requirements, and cognition. It helps us to understand and respect rules and opposition … the list goes on.

So many of the skills we acquire in sport can translate to attributes that create strong communities.

The power of compassion, being humble in defeat as well as celebrating victory. All of these are so important to learn. Sport teaches hard work while also being fun and engaging. Sport has the ability to empower an individual and expose them to incredible life lessons. Sport really does have the power to change the world positively.

“Sport has empowered young girls and women, bringing visibility and exposure to the incredible journeys they are on.”

  • Fiona Taag, Head of Global Sponsorship & Europe Marketing Communications, DHL

Sport can absolutely change the world. This can be through the physical and mental strength it gives to individual athletes or teams; the joint passion that bonds fans together from many backgrounds and cultures; and a vehicle to deliver life skills and learnings that help communities to grow stronger.

As Henry Ford once stated: “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” Sport has the power to transform individuals, teams, communities and even nations, working to break down barriers and build opportunities, that might not otherwise have been possible.

In recent years, I have seen how sport has empowered young girls and women, bringing visibility and exposure to the incredible journeys they are on. It’s encouraging to see more female athletes being lauded for their abilities and, more importantly, inspiring thousands of young girls to follow in their footsteps.

However, we must ensure that sport uses its power for good – not for divisiveness or greed, political will or discrimination. We must hold all accountable who have this power at their disposal and increasingly ensure investment is made not just in athletes, venues and events, but also in the communities that support, surround and host them.

“Sport brings people together from diverse backgrounds…”

  • Chris Mastaglio, Director of ChildFund Pass it Back

Does sport have the power to change the world? Yes! Sport brings people together from diverse backgrounds around a common goal and provides a platform to work together, develop friendships and focus on commonalities, not differences. 

What is critical is that there is a strong and deliberate focus on the positive elements of participation; sport should be inclusive and fun. I’ve seen firsthand the ability of sport to break down cultural, religious and language barriers when used as part of programs working to deliver concrete development outcomes. 

Sport remains underutilised as a tool to tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges around inclusion, leadership and positive decision-making. But in the coming years, I hope to see a stronger focus on the opportunities that sport provides to helping achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

“I have come to realise that sport, and specifically access to sport, has helped shape my life for the better.”

  • Ron Rutland, Race to Rugby World Cup Ambassador

As a young student, having grown up in apartheid South Africa, my trip to Newlands Stadium for the opening game of the 1995 RWC was a life-changing moment. When Nelson Mandela walked out onto the pitch, and an almost exclusively white crowd spend 20 mins chanting his name, I realised that sport had the power to change the world – or at that moment, change my country and bring together South Africans of all races.

Since then, on a more personal level, I have come to realise that sport, and specifically access to sport, has helped shape my life for the better. It has given me opportunities, values and friendships that I treasure immensely.

So it’s for these reasons that I have come to appreciate the value of sport in bringing communities together and bridging cultural gaps. I have had the most incredible privilege and pleasure to visit and work with many Sport For Development projects around the world. 

The impact they have made on local communities has in turn made an enormous impact on me. None more so than ChildFund Pass It Back. Quite simply, very few things in life have made more of an impact on me than meeting the coaches and players of the program in Laos and Vietnam.

So whether seeing people brought together by the best rugby players on the planet at the 2019 RWC, or pulling an old rugby ball out of a dirty pannier bag and throwing it around with kids at a rural school in Myanmar, sport has the power to change the world in ways nothing else can.

In the immortal words of Nelson Mandela: “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. 

“Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.”

“It gives quiet people a voice, shy people confidence, withdrawn people a team…”

  • Rob Vickerman, Ex-England Sevens Rugby Captain, commentator, and sports performance and productivity coach

There is not one day that goes by in which I don’t see the power of sport in society. It unifies people, creates communities, explores possibilities and benefits mental and physical health. The benefits are there for all, no matter what age, size or skill – and all it takes is to jump in and try it. 

I am lucky enough to be involved in bringing opportunity to young people through sporting experiences within schools; and the challenge, drive, resolve and growth I continue to see never ceases to amaze me. It gives quiet people a voice, shy people confidence, withdrawn people a team and more importantly, shows them all how to break down barriers and problems in all aspects of their lives, not just on a court, field or pitch.

“Sport gives people hope, where previously there was none.”

  • Ross Mitchell, general manager, Asia Rugby

Sport gives people hope, where previously there was none. 

Everyone experiences the process of being measured academically against their peers, but for so many of us academic excellence may not be so easy to achieve. Sport provides a different dimension. It allows people who would otherwise not shine, to have the opportunity to stand-out amongst their friends and colleagues. In team games they can contribute to the overall feel-good of the group: as individuals they can excel in their own chosen sphere.

When I was fortunate enough to visit Laos together with the ChildFund Pass It Back program, I met many young women whom, without the opportunity that rugby had given them, may have felt that they had little opportunity in their life to do something that was meaningful, that they were good at and that they could enjoy. Instead, these girls all displayed great self-esteem; had huge pride in what they had achieved and demonstrated tremendous hope and aspirations for their life that otherwise may never have occurred.

“Sport creates friendships and a sense of belonging that is unrivaled.”

For the benefits of physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, sport has no parallels. The stimulation sport gives our bodies and minds through its challenges creates happiness and satisfaction that is not only healthy but infectious. These values combined with the bonds that are created through shared experiences in sport creates friendships and a sense of belonging that is unrivaled.

“Sport has the power to unite people from all races, cultures and backgrounds.”

I do think sport has the power to change the world. I think sport has the power to unite people from all races, cultures and backgrounds. I think sport definitely has the power to change your world and the world around you, it gives us the opportunity to learn life skills, to make friends and to relieve stress. It gives us an escape and an opportunity to let go of all worries and be in the moment. Sport has a funny way of bringing people together to support one common goal and I think that if we can unite in other facets of life we have a formula for success.

“It teaches us to work in a team and in turn to work with others to achieve a goal.”

Jono Lance, Perth Spirit

Sport has the power to change the world by teaching us some of the best principles someone can have in their life. It teaches us to work in a team and in turn learn how to work with others to achieve a goal. It helps us deal with challenges and adversity and reminds us to be humble in victory and gives us a chance to go again after defeat. And gives us a chance to have fun and enjoy living in the now, no matter what is going on outside of the whistle. So yes, sport can definitely change the world by teaching us some crucial ways to live by in a setting that started for all of us as having fun.

“Sport can unify people in a way nothing else can, and has the power to change the world.”

Sport has the power to unite. From my personal experiences, moving away from friends and family into a sporting team, I would walk into a new group of mates. These new mates would make these transitions so much easier.

Nelson Mandela was a big believer in the power of sport, and used the 1995 Rugby World Cup to break down racial tensions within South Africa and get the whole country to support their home team. Sport can unify people in a way nothing else can, and has the power to change the world. 

“Sport speaks an international language, it has the power to change you, and the world.”

Sport has the power to change the world in so  many ways…I will try to put words to a few.

It brings people of all creeds, nationalities and backgrounds together to embrace Unity and One-ness. In sport it doesn’t matter what you do for a living, or what side of the tracks you grew up, whether you are playing on the field or cheering the athletes from the sidelines, everyone is equal. In that moment or sport, everyone is united in their passion for their love of the game and their chosen team. Sport promotes the values of loyalty, discipline, fortitude, courage and respect. Teammates become lifelong friends, and you sacrifice for the people that share the same jersey as you. You become more confident and sociable, learning things about yourself and what brings out the best of others. Sport speaks an international language, it has the power to change you, and the world.

“Sport is the essence of growth, resilience and passion.”

Sport has the power to change the people in the world. It allows you to build relationships with a varity of different people and creates an enjoyable space to learn through action. Whether you play or watch, sport is the essence of growth, resilience and passion. It brings people from all walks of life together under the same banner and has become the common language of the world.

Change the world with rugby

Sport has the power to change the world. As we’ve heard, sport unites people from all walks of life behind a common goal. It creates opportunities for individual growth, improves physical, mental and emotional health, as well as developing confidence and a sense of empowerment. 

We know we can’t change the world overnight, but overtime we can create positive and measurable change for the communities where we work. Sport for development programs, like ChildFund Pass It Back, have proven that the world can change, one community at a time.