Empowering coaches and trainers in sports to prevent youth radicalization and violent extremism
Radicalization and violent extremism, tied to religious, political and social factors, represents an increasingly complex issue in Italia and the EU that requires the acquisition of new knowledge and competencies.
SAFE ZONE (@SafeZoneEU) responds to the educational challenges posed by radicalization with the objective of influencing the processes that can lead young people to approach violent extremist groups. In line with this objective, the project focuses on the educational relationship established within sports between coaches/educators and the youth who participate in sports.
The field of sports finds itself in a strategic position in the fight against radicalization and youth violence: sport represents one of the primary areas for informal socialization for a vast number of youth throughout Europe and hence an ideal context for defining adequate prevention strategies centered on the promotion of a culture based on respect for adversaries, fair play, living together, and peace.
Sports also represents an incredible “observatory” through which to identify youth that are at-risk or have tendencies that point towards radicalization via the monitoring of violent behaviour (physical and verbal). Nevertheless, as underscored by the data and relevant literature, little has been done within sports not only in regards to raising the awareness of youth, but also in regards to reinforcing the educational capacity of coaches.
SAFE ZONE takes steps to fill this gap by: mapping the risks of radicalization and extremist violence, developing a methodology and defining teaching tools that support prevention in order to increase the awareness and skills of coaches and educators within sports. In so doing, the project recognizes the formal and informal pedagogical role they play in the youths’ lives, especially in relation to behaviours that support the use of violence amongst peers.
Work also needs to be done to build awareness in regards to the risks and benefits of educational methods within sports in order to assure that these methods to not serve as “radicalization agents”.
SAFE ZONE, which is financed by the European Commission, lasts for 24 months and is coordinated by the Psychoanalytic Institute for Social in Research in cooperation with six other European partners (Christliches Jugenddorfwerk Deutschlands, Alma Mater Europaea-Evropski Center, Akademija mešanih borilnih veščin MMA Klub, Centro Sportivo Italiano, Universidade Catolica Portuguesa, Instituto Portugues do Desporto e Juventude). The project will promote cooperation between the various actors involved in the education of youth under the age of 18 via meetings with key actors and sport club managers as well as workshops with coaches and educators within sports. The aim of these actions is to develop a common prevention strategy in the fight against youth radicalization and violent extremism.
In the end, SAFE ZONE will reinforce the competencies of national and local policymakers in policy areas involving youth, social issues and security about violent extremist radicalization via national awareness raising meetings and transnational exchange meetings involving the various countries involved in the project that support the development of prevention methodologies and instruments useful in the identification of risk factors and. Furthermore, the project will develop a handbook for coaches and educators within sports focusing on the prevention of radicalization and violent extremism as well as EU policy recommendations.