By Mark Young
President, Rational Games, Inc.
We finish the year by introducing our newest grantee, Sports4More (SfM) in Berlin, a young and innovative initiative that uses the medium of boxing to reach at-risk youth from socially disadvantaged neighbourhoods, many with a “migration” background, teaching them not only how to box but, along the way, fairness, respect, tolerance and the ability to deal with conflict.
Founded in 2007 with the help of our good partner Laureus, SfM has grown and prospered over the years, culminating in the winning of the coveted Bambi Prize for integration in 2015. As the form of organisation has changed several times, SfM has now broken free of the public sector entirely and seeks to stand on its own feet as a private charity.
All the while, they continue to reach 50-80 kids between the ages of 10 and 25 annually, the focus is increasingly on those with a “migration” background, and, perhaps surprisingly, young women and girls. My personal visit to their rented boxing facilities in Kreuzberg a few weeks ago was truly inspiring, and I came away with several lessons and inspirations:
1. Our Board had some difficulty associating the sport of boxing/fighting with conflict resolution. This visit allayed that fear. Because what I experienced was almost a loving coming together through the sport. Marike Ingwersen from SFM tells that the participants here release aggression and frustration in a harmless way. “Fairness and friendship are very important to us here and it is always nice to see how the power of sport helps to forget anger and conflicts from outside at least for the time of the common sport. In the Gym it doesn’t matter where someone comes from, what religion he has or how he looks. Here everyone is equal.”
2. The “ground rules” posted prominently, asking everyone not to take drugs and to leave knives and other weapons outside, reminded me that this crowd is tougher than it looks. “Often enough, we observe how the participants develop a positive feeling for their own bodies for the first time by mastering coordinative and cognitive challenges together. Those who respect themselves also treat their fellow human beings with respect. Boxing may at first appear to be primarily confrontational, but in fact it requires those social skills that are often neglected in the subject lessons of school life: Setting and respecting boundaries, cooperation instead of competition, respect and tolerance as the basis of all communication.” All concepts from our seminars!
3. I was very pleased to notice that the warmup session involved several lighthearted physical games, with the kids running around the room with obvious delight…..
Any ideas or inspirations from my readers would be most welcome.
Please join us in welcoming SfM to Rational Games!