Combine sports with community work for the ideal gap year

by Jules on May 14, 2012

Everyone knows there’s nothing like a good kick-about to bring kids and adults together; after all, who can resist getting involved with a friendly game of football, basketball, rugby or cricket? If you’re planning a gap year and have a passion for sports, you can combine your travels with a spot of volunteer work in local communities.

There are lots of options to choose from, whether you want to work with children while you’re overseas or improve your own sporting skills and help out in other ways. Here are just a few suggestions of programmes you can choose:

Sports coaching

Getting involved in sports coaching with kids from local communities is one of the most rewarding gap year travel experiences on offer. Children who have had a difficult life will love the opportunity to let off some steam on the sports field – whether you’re playing football, cricket or volleyball.

You’ll be surprised by how much a quick game of five-a-side can make a difference and you’ll never forget the immense satisfaction you get from seeing the children you’re teaching enjoying themselves out on the pitch. You can even teach them to swim – an incredibly useful skill as well as a fun sport.

In addition to providing them with an enjoyable way to exercise, you can help them practise their English skills, as it’s unlikely you’ll speak their native language! Head to Swaziland in Africa, for instance, and you’ll be working with children from disadvantaged backgrounds, many of whom are from families that have been affected by HIV or AIDs.

They will certainly appreciate the time you devote to them and you can be confident you’re having a positive impact on the lives of these kids.

Community outreach with sports

Another option is to work on a community outreach project that encourages children in big cities – such as Posadas in Argentina – to do something constructive in their free time. In many South American countries, kids get involved in criminal activities at a young age, something you can help to prevent by offering them a host of other activities they can do instead.

Playing soccer in the streets with a bunch of Argentine kids is bound to be great fun – and, given the nation’s footballing prowess, you might find the children can show you a few tricks! The aim is to give them a constructive outlet for their energy, helping to keep them on the right track as they grow up.

As with sports coaching elsewhere, you’ll also be able to help these young people develop their English in a relaxed and informal environment – which may mean they grasp it much better than they do from reading books in the classroom.

Develop your sporting skills

Of course, you may not want to teach sports as part of your gap year, but there are still ways for you to be active on your travels while helping out in other ways. In Costa Rica, for instance, you can get involved in conservation projects that help protect the country’s amazing ecosystems and native creatures.

After a few weeks working in the jungle, you can head to the coast to learn how to surf in some of the best conditions in the world. What better way to reward yourself for a few weeks of hard work than by catching some waves and lounging on the nation’s most stunning beaches?

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