Happy International Day of Sport for Development & Peace! So what's that mean?

Today, April 6th, is International Day of Sport for Development and Peace. Happy IDSPD Day to YOU, and you and you! Right, so what the heck is this day and why should you and the world care? Well, I am here to explain this to you as best I can sitting from the comforts of my home office in Los Angeles having a bit of insight to what happens on a global scale.

The United Nations felt that Sport (meant to be singular and not plural) has such a positive and lasting impacting on some of the world's most serious social issues that not only did they create an entire office dedicated to it, the UNOSDP, United Nations Office of Sport for Development & Peace BUT they also gave the entire Sport for Development & Peace Movement a big ol' day for themselves on the International UN Calendar, that is today April 6th every year indefinitely to celebrate and try to give more awareness to it. Have I grabbed your attention yet on how big of a deal this is? Are you feeling like you want to celebrate yet? Let me tell you more.

You might wonder why a former U.S. based publicist of mostly NFL players knows something about Sport for Development as it seems like something that we don't really know about or have here in the United States. Should we care here since it seems like this is only used in places far, far away with very serious social issues. I'll validate why I know something about this a bit.

After I left personal PR for athletes in 2009, I had the absolute privilege to go on and work for the Global Humanitarian Organization Right To Play founded by former Norwegian Olympian Johann Olav Koss, a leader and pioneer in the Sport for Development Movement. After a few humanitarian missions to war torn regions like Eritrea and Kosovo, Johann realized that sport activities had a profoundly lasting positive impact on children and communities. So he started Right To Play in 2000 and since has built it into a $40M+ NGO that uses Sport & Play curriculum to help children learn important lessons about health, disease prevention, gender equality, inclusion, coexistence, disaster recovery and many other issues. It's incredibly impressive as I've seen the programs up close & personal on trips to Rwanda and Uganda in 2012.

Why should we care about this in the United States since it seems like these issues and programs are only for other countries and regions? I'm going to give you a few examples below of not only why we should care, but wait for it, how these programs are ALREADY going on right here in the United States and being backed by great sponsors that you should know about:

  • LAUREUS USA + Mercedes Benz USA: Did you know that in New Orleans, the Laureus USA Foundation and Mercedes Benz USA have partnered to bring thousands of children sport programs to aid them in the 10+ year disaster recovery after Hurricane Katrina? That is Sport for Development.
  • NB3 FOUNDATION + NIKE: Former PGA Golfer (and Tiger Woods BFF) Notah Begay is a Native American using sport programs to help reduce the disturbingly high rates of childhood obesity in his community. He uses sport programs to teach children the important lessons of healthy eating and activity addressing this existential crisis in the Native American communities in New Mexico, Alaska and California. That is Sport for Development (with me yet?).
  • PEACE PLAYERS INTERNATIONAL + Adidas: PPI has been around for over a decade using basketball to address issues of coexistence. They started with programs in Ireland, South Africa, Israel and Cyprus and now have programs here in Washington D.C. that teach conflict resolution skills using basketball. Say it with me: That is Sport for Development!

Disaster Recovery, Health & Disease Prevention and Conflict Resolution. These are all incredibly serious societal issues that are occurring right here in the United States just like they occur in places like the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Sport is helping to resolve these issues and that is why today, The International Day of Sport for Development & Peace has not only earned it's very own day, but why this concept and it's results should have more awareness.

So Happy IDSPD Day to you, and you and you! Instead of celebrating by eating cupcakes and using streamers, go and play your favorite sport today and think about how it has changed your life. Then tell others about why today should be celebrated! (then maybe you can go and get a cupcake!).