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Girl smiling at one of the Day Centres of Aldeas infantiles SOS

INTEGRATION AND SPORT

The protagonists

Anna Nieto Cervantes

Social educator

"Now he goes to the Open Centre with a smile drawn on his face and he hugs instructors and colleagues"

C. is a boy of 8 years old, happy and playful. When he joined the program Integration and Sport he was very shy, with colleagues and monitors. He founded difficult to reach out to colleagues and had a conversation with them. He avoided any physical contact; for him, to give a kiss was like a game.

We have seen many improvements in this child. Now he goes to the Open Centre with a smile drawn on his face and he hugs instructors and colleagues. Slowly, he expressed his feelings with gestures and words.

One day her mother told us "I am very proud that my son is here with you. C. enters into a place and greets people, is more talkative at home and at school is more concentrated".

See these changes and how the families perceive them mean that this program is important to the development of the children and their family.

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Anna Nieto and children in the Open Centre

Albert Pujol Martinez

Educator in the Integration and Sport Project

"If I’d been given a blank canvas on which to design a project, it wouldn’t have been very different from Integration and Sport"

What personal and professional experience has brought to where you are   today?
I inevitably think of my childhood, because since that time I’ve always had a lot of fun and had a great passion for different sports, both individual and team sports. I was part of several teams, basically for fun, but I also trained and competed. This experience is essential in being able to put myself in the shoes of the children and young people I work with today, to be able to understand them and act accordingly.

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What personal and professional experience has brought to where you are   today?
I inevitably think of my childhood, because since that time I’ve always had a lot of fun and had a great passion for different sports, both individual and team sports. I was part of several teams, basically for fun, but I also trained and competed. This experience is essential in being able to put myself in the shoes of the children and young people I work with today, to be able to understand them and act accordingly.

Then later, when I was a teenager, I started to develop a passion for something more than the physical activity itself, like the more “mental” and human aspect of sport, and its importance for the individual and for society. I gradually started to see sport as more than just entertainment, to consider it as a “testing ground” that reflects the same challenges that we humans come up against throughout our lives.

In addition to this personal side of things, I started to study the fields of social work and education and saw some instances where both of these overlapped to complement each other. I have worked on a project that sought, through sport, to motivate young people who had high levels of truancy and socio-economic difficulties; as a coach for a basketball team of physically disabled people, and in a Day Centre for the homeless in the Zona Franca district.

Throughout my career I’ve learned a lot more from people and experiences than from reading books. I’ve seen that the combination of education and sport is a good formula, and that’s why I believe in its potential as a tool and I identify strongly with the aim of this project.

How long have you been with the programme?
I started when the programme began in September 2011; the time has really flown by.

Has participation in the programme changed you or brought you anything?
There have been many new and rewarding experiences for me, both with my colleagues and with the children. Sometimes there are hard moments though, because you’re dealing with personal situations that affect you; we’re not made of stone. However, there are many good, positive moments that more than make up for it.

Also, fortunately both the Rafa Nadal Foundation and Aldeas Infantiles are aware of the importance of the family and school aspect; a fundamental part of our educational work. In this sense, the programme has “opened up” a new perspective for me as an educator, when it seemed that we couldn’t go beyond individual work.

I’d also like to point out that we do a wide variety of sports in the project that maybe I knew about but had never practiced before (korfball, flag football, acrosport, and capoeira). All sports have their potential; they have many things in common but each one has its own strong points.

Moreover, being in contact with children and young people while they play sport brings you closer to the essence of it, the origin, which is the desire to play. In fact, many great athletes and coaches have always stressed that athletes should not lose that "inner child" when they play. You have to go out and have fun; that is, apart from learning the techniques and familiarising yourself with the collective automatisms (strategy, tactics, etc.), at the end of the day you have to play to have fun.

What has your experience brought to the programme?
I’d say that my work and personal experience and my training has contributed to finding, with the help of my colleagues, the best responses and decisions for carrying out the programme and to build on what was designed jointly by the Rafa Nadal Foundation and the Aldeas Infantiles. To a certain extent, I think that all of us who work on the project are complementary to it.

On a more personal front, I strongly believe in sport and in its ability to transform people and to expand their capabilities, and that's what I want to get across. I've experienced it myself, and still do when I take the bike out and have to really push myself to climb a mountain, or when things are going badly in a game and I have to control my emotions, just to give a couple of examples. I haven’t lost touch with sport and I think that’s a good thing.

What would you like to achieve?
In the short term, I want the best for all those involved in the project, not only that they improve their behaviour or perform better at school, but also that they learn a lot and take that away with them; that they are happy and have prospects for the future; that they have dreams and that they interact with others. And not only the participants, but also their families and their environment; that everybody benefits in one way or another.

I always say that if I’d been given a blank canvas to design a project, it wouldn’t have been very different to what I’m doing now. Of course there’s always going to be change, depending on what reality throws up, and responding to these changes educationally is the aim. It would be good if lots of other athletes followed the example of Rafa Nadal and his Foundation, had the same or similar ideas and got involved in these types of initiatives.

With regards to the long term, it would be great if the project continued to grow, in terms of both participants and educators, to help and benefit even more people. I’d also love to see the project carried out in other cities, to see how each project evolves and to be able to share experiences, methodologies, etc.

And on a more idealist, “dreamer” level you might say, I'd love to think that this project serves as an example to demonstrate the power of sport in society, that it’s not seen just as an area where there’s either success or failure, but as a tool to help us grow as people: as part of a family, as part of a team, as part of society.

Would you like to tell us about your experience with any beneficiary (adult or child) in the programme which is particularly important to you?
What springs to mind is the case of a child with a very difficult family situation, as he’s stuck in the middle of a conflict between his mother and father, and it’s him, at only 11 years of age, who has to suffer the consequences. That pain and anguish has almost always led him into conflict, calling for attention with violence. He’s aware of his situation, that it seems as if the world is against him. To take this on and to control it at that age is very difficult. He also has some references that use violence as a means of dealing with things, and since he was very young he has also used it as a solution. In fact, he sometimes says that “I have no friends at school” and that “they’re all afraid of me.”

Through the project, activities and by interacting in another context, he has improved his behaviour. Now, at home and at school, he doesn’t have as many problems in terms of violence: here he has had a place with more positive adult references, people with whom he can discuss it, try to resolve it, ask for help and see that there are other ways of solving things, since in his own environment verbal and physical violence is common (he simply imitates those patterns).

He’s one of the kids who benefits most from reflection sessions before, during and after activities, either in a group or individually. You realise that here we have given him the chance to redefine himself, and the capacity to solve problems in a positive and constructive way. He has learned to interact with others much better, to control himself and, even more importantly, to know that he’s capable of doing it.

We obviously can’t resolve his family situation one hundred percent, but the programme at least influences how he deals with it, and it makes him aware of his stronger capabilities and his ability to change.
 

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Albert Pujol Martinez

Juan Manuel Sánchez Ramos and Ángel Cardenete Hernández

Dir. of the Day Centre and Dir. of the Social Programme Centre in Granada respectively

"The essence of any sport is that its practice offers endless possibilities for personal enrichment"

What are the objectives of the program?
The main objectives of this programme are always focussed on providing –using sport as a medium– a series of cross-cutting learning activities that help the children to acquire tools, values and skills that contribute to enhancing their role within their social environments, thereby reducing their risk factors and enriching their personal, social, and family spheres.

Who is it aimed at?
As is customary in these types of programmes, it is aimed at socially weaker children, whose opportunities are limited by a host of problems that are gradually moving them towards social exclusion and, in some cases, towards being marginalised, surrounded by a broad set of risk factors or indicators that prevent proper social integration.

In what way does practicing sport, and tennis in particular, help to achieve the aims of the project?
The essence of any sport is that its practice offers endless possibilities for personal enrichment, and even more so for children in the critical period of their personal growth. It not only enhances their motor skills and physical development, but also transmits values, improves emotional control and discipline and encourages teamwork, camaraderie, good hygiene practices, etc. There’s no doubt that tennis, as well as other sports, provides a wide range of options; and especially in this case, as it is supported by a top-class figure like Rafa Nadal, a reference in many respects and a role model given his well-known qualities as an elite athlete and also for the values he transmits, so his image is ideal for children and young people.

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What are the objectives of the program?
The main objectives of this programme are always focussed on providing –using sport as a medium– a series of cross-cutting learning activities that help the children to acquire tools, values and skills that contribute to enhancing their role within their social environments, thereby reducing their risk factors and enriching their personal, social, and family spheres.

Who is it aimed at?
As is customary in these types of programmes, it is aimed at socially weaker children, whose opportunities are limited by a host of problems that are gradually moving them towards social exclusion and, in some cases, towards being marginalised, surrounded by a broad set of risk factors or indicators that prevent proper social integration.

In what way does practicing sport, and tennis in particular, help to achieve the aims of the project?
The essence of any sport is that its practice offers endless possibilities for personal enrichment, and even more so for children in the critical period of their personal growth. It not only enhances their motor skills and physical development, but also transmits values, improves emotional control and discipline and encourages teamwork, camaraderie, good hygiene practices, etc. There’s no doubt that tennis, as well as other sports, provides a wide range of options; and especially in this case, as it is supported by a top-class figure like Rafa Nadal, a reference in many respects and a role model given his well-known qualities as an elite athlete and also for the values he transmits, so his image is ideal for children and young people.

As well as sport, what other activities are carried out?
Any technique or workshop that helps the children acquire values, improve self-concept and, especially, self-control. That’s why the video forums, the critical analysis of the sports actions of well-known athletes, yoga, etc., are all essential to the programme.

How would you evaluate the results obtained so far?
Very positively; even it’s still a bit early to talk about objectives achieved. But it’s true that we’ve seen a marked change in the attitudes of many of the kids; they’ve started to develop habits and attitudes that were previously unimaginable, which will improve their relationship with their environment and with others. We are noticing significant improvements in their relationships, self-esteem and emotional control, together with a critical spirit and personal discovery, and they are learning how to channel their leisure and free time in a positive, interesting way.

What are your next challenges for the project?
To achieve the objectives established at the beginning of the programme and to closely analyse the more personal or individual goals that help the kids overcome their personal problems, and to achieve a more complete development that will provide them with more options within their realities and their particular problems.

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Juan Manuel Sánchez Ramos
Ángel Cardenete Hernández

Laura Fuertes

Barcelona Open Centre Manager

"Rafa Nadal serves us as a powerful reference for fair play and for the importance of effort, discretion, generosity..."

What are the objectives of the programme?
This has been the first year we have implemented the Integration & Sport Project and our efforts have been focused on bringing together something so inborn in children as their motivation to play games and physical activity with educational and social purposes.

The boys and girls who take part in the programme enjoy their free time doing different sports and they learn to solve personal, family and social difficulties with a positive, constructive and participatory attitude through the tools that the daily routine provides them with.

Read more

What are the objectives of the programme?
This has been the first year we have implemented the Integration & Sport Project and our efforts have been focused on bringing together something so inborn in children as their motivation to play games and physical activity with educational and social purposes.

The boys and girls who take part in the programme enjoy their free time doing different sports and they learn to solve personal, family and social difficulties with a positive, constructive and participatory attitude through the tools that the daily routine provides them with.

Who is it aimed at?
The recipients of this programme are boys and girls between the ages of 6 and 18 who come from families who, for a variety of reasons, are suffering personal and/or social difficulties.

In what way does practicing sports – and in particular, tennis – contribute towards achieving the objectives of this project?
Sport is an educational tool for the transmission of personal and social values, which helps children to assimilate them. Practicing different sports, as in tennis, accompanied by individual thought-processes, places them in various, vital situations such as: “If I have been able to concentrate enough to play bowling, I can also do so in class”; “Today I had to talk to my classmates in acrobatics for getting the exercise right, so dialogue helps me to solve difficulties”; “Depending on how I hold the racket, the ball responds, so my acts have consequences”.

Children and teenagers idolise public celebrities and these very often become role models. In this context, the figure of Rafa Nadal serves us as a powerful reference for children for fair play, the importance of effort, discretion, generosity… Moreover, they are very aware of Rafa Nadal’s responsibility with this project through his Foundation, as he has visited them several times and they feel he is close to them.

In addition to sports, what other tools and activities are used?

  • Informative and guidance sessions for families that promote the involvement of families in their children’s educational processes.
  • Family interviews.
  • Visits to Sports Federations and Clubs in the neighbourhood.
  • An area for Reception and a Media Library.
  • Afternoon snack.
  • Spaces for individual and group reflection.
  • Campus for holiday times.
  • Coordination with schools and other intervening agents for the follow-up of the children we attend to.
  • Individual tutorials and educational projects.
  • Joint communal activities with other entities in the locality.

 

How do you value the results obtained to date?
We have already passed the Equator of this first year and the children and their respective families express their improvements. They feel better with themselves, they have learned to mix with other children and other cultures, they go to school more motivated, they organize their free time by themselves, they are familiar with more resources in the area, they feel healthier...
A month ago we handed a questionnaire to the children who attend the programme and they defined it as “good”, “brilliant”, “fun”, important in my life”, “I have discovered new abilities”, “respect for others”, “they care for me”, “educational”.

What are your next challenges with regard to the project?
Some of the children who attend the programme have a track record of failures with the educational system. During the next school year, thanks to the Rafa Nadal Foundation, we will be able to complement the Integration & Sports Project with a learning support programme and a study class for preventing school-leaving and promote adequate formative levels.

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Laura Fuertes
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