Matthews: Clubs must help tackle violence
Social development programmes should be mandatory at sports clubs to help to curb violence and other antisocial behaviour, the former president of Boulevard Community Club has claimed.
Lou Matthews said that young men needed to be educated and encouraged to steer them away from criminal activity, and that many clubs in Bermuda failed to offer useful and progressive initiatives to their members.
“It's a question which has to be taken a bit more seriously,” said Mr Matthews, who also cofounded the community mobilisation initiative Rise Above Bermuda.
Bermudian sport has been tarnished in recent years by multiple incidents of violence either involving local athletes or taking place at sports clubs.
International cricketer Fiqre Crockwell was fatally shot in Pembroke last week, following a National Heroes Day function at the BAA car park, although he has not been identified as being involved in any gang.
Other incidents have included the murder of Rickai Swan, 26, who was shot outside Southampton Rangers Sports Club on October 23 last year, and two separate shootings on Remembrance Day in 2014 — one outside the National Sports Centre after the Dudley Eve Trophy final and the other outside Somerset Cricket Club.
Mr Matthews pointed to the “large network of problems” contributing to the common eruptions of violence among young sportsmen.
These included the high rates of unfinished education, unemployment and illiteracy, sowing the seeds for feelings of alienation and vulnerability.
He suggested that tailored initiatives in sports clubs would offer young athletes a sense of purpose and direction for their future — with areas of focus including behavioural development, mentorship, therapy and job training.
“Once you meet the needs of young people and address their skill sets, that goes a long way to giving them options against things like gang behaviour,” Mr Matthews said, adding that the programmes could be sponsored either privately or by Government.
Mr Matthews stressed the importance of achieving long-term solutions rather than attempting quick fixes.
“We have to recommit ourselves to the needs of the community,” he said.
“Sports clubs are actually the one place young men gravitate towards for mentorship and belonging, whether they're involved [in illicit activities] or not, and that means they already have a leg-up.
“If they don't fulfil their responsibility to build the capacity of these young men, then they are partly responsible for exacerbating the problem.”