Always understood: The universal language of sport
Sport has enormous power and potential to change children’s lives. Through its common language of teamwork, discipline and play, sport creates a shared experience. Like music or art it has no borders, providing a unique way to reach children. The developmental and educational benefits associated with the practice of sport cannot be compared to other modes of learning, and parents and policymakers alike have repeatedly confirmed the value of protecting a child’s right to sport. One of the biggest advancements in this regard – which undoubtedly has enhanced our lives and those of many children throughout the world – was the inclusion of the right to play and recreational activities, which includes the right to sport, in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Our family has always been engaged in the pursuit of sport, specifically basketball. Both our parents played semi-professional basketball in our home country of Spain, and they have supported us – and our younger brother – in all our efforts on and off the court. As young children, playing basketball enriched our lives tremendously, not only strengthening our relationship as brothers, but also helping us to develop physically and emotionally. When we were kids we were both quite shy, and even though our height is an advantage now, at the time we were uncoordinated. Sport helped us to gain coordination and confidence. Sport has taught us many things, shaped us as individuals, and, together with the education we received from our parents and at school, made us the men we are today. Discipline, learning to listen, sacrifice, teamwork, maintaining a healthy lifestyle in order to perform at a higher level, the desire to excel, competitiveness, communication and camaraderie with our fellow team members, are some of the values we have learned through sport.
Engaging in sport: building healthy communities
While few people become professional athletes, participation in individual and team sport allows anyone to partake in the values, challenges, thrills and hard work that form our experience as players in the National Basketball Association (NBA) of the United States. One of the surprising rewards we reap as professional athletes is the opportunity to share and promote sport among children. Throughout our travels we have witnessed the transformative power sport can have for communities. From visiting inner-city youth in Los Angeles to traveling to villages in Angola, we have seen that children who play sport are building healthier and happier lives and, at the same time, changing the communities in which they live.
When children play any sport, learning as they enjoy themselves, they are automatically moving away from other activities that are less beneficial to their welfare. It is a matter of deep concern to see that many children are surrounded by violence and have illicit drugs within their reach. Adult community members have the responsibility to provide children with opportunities to engage in healthy and educational activities that help to insulate them from these dangers. In life, nobody can guarantee that things will go a certain way, but our challenge is to do everything we can to ensure that children around the world have the best possible opportunity to enjoy a better future. To that end, each of us must support the work in our respective fields and seize the opportunities we are given to encourage children in their learning and development. Together we can move the world closer to realizing the rights developed in the Convention on the Rights of the Child – recognizing, always, that children are the future of our planet.
Let us fight for the rights of children.
Marc and Pau Gasol are professional basketball players in the NBA. Originally from Catalunya, Spain, they are the sons of Marisa Sáez and Agustí Gasol and older brothers to Adria. Pau, the elder sibling, was drafted in 2001 and won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award playing for the Memphis Grizzlies. A member of the 2009 NBA championship–winning Los Angeles Lakers, he currently plays forward-centre for the team. Pau is also a UNICEF Spain Goodwill Ambassador and an avid reader. His younger brother Marc was drafted in 2008 and currently plays centre for the Memphis Grizzlies. Prior to playing for Memphis, Marc was the Most Valuable Player of the Liga ACB in Spain. Both Marc and Pau were members of Spain’s 2008 Olympic silver medal–winning team. They discuss who has the best moves on the post.
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