Sports and the YMCAs

The inspiring world of YMCA sport

Sport is one of the fields of work that YMCAs are best known for the world over. Type “YMCA sports” into a Google search engine and you come up with over 2 million hits and that’s but a drop in the ocean when it comes to the total programmes on offer. But YMCA achievements are about much more than the sheer numbers of people reached by our programmes. YMCAs around the world offer an incredible variety of sports programmes reflecting the enormous diversity of communities they are serving and their needs.


YMCA sports are characterised by innovation, accessibility and affordability and they are a tool for individual and community development. It would be impossible to do justice to all the pioneering, socially relevant sports programmes that YMCAs are running in just one issue of YMCA World. So we aim instead to give you a glimpse of the inspiring world of YMCA sport.


When it comes to our achievements in sports, the YMCA has much to be proud of. Not least, we have made some amazing contributions to sporting history, for example through the invention of basketball and volleyball.


It is a hallmark of YMCA programmes that they offer sports for everyone. Recently I visited Lima YMCA and watched a group of “elderly” ladies having enormous fun in a popular aerobics class. Some were clearly more interested in talking to their friends in the class than in the exercises, but providing a meeting place where friendships can develop is exactly what YMCAs are all about. In Kosovo the YMCA runs sports programmes for the disabled and intends to take a team to the Special Olympics in China 2008. A local YMCA in Canada runs special exercise classes for those with osteoporosis. Many YMCAs charge a minimal fee, or none at all, so that low income families can participate in their health and fitness programmes. In India the YMCA takes sports activities to the remotest of places.


Many YMCAs use sports as a tool for community building and social development. In Liberia the YMCA offers sports and recreation for psychosocial rehabilitation for the community in its post conflict reality. In Brazil, the YMCA is promoting social inclusion for children from disadvantaged backgrounds through sports. UNICEF, with whom many YMCAs partner, uses sports as a way of educating young people about HIV and AIDS.


YMCAs are also innovators and leaders in the commercial field of health and fitness. In England, for example, 100,000 fitness professionals have gained their qualifications from the YMCA with graduates working in every area of the fitness industry. In Brazil, the YMCA has pioneered its own health and fitness brand which is proving very popular. In Jamaica, 75 % of people who can swim learnt how at the YMCA.


Sport is an integral part of the Christian mission of the YMCA. We are challenged to develop the spiritual, intellectual and physical well-being of individuals and communities, and sports is helping YMCAs to do just that.

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