Sport and religion have been built upon a positive ethos of commitment to hard work, personal sacrifice, fairness and achievement. As in religion, athletes use rituals, customs and even invocate the supernatural in training, team meetings and the celebration of success and in accepting failure.
Woods (2007) argues that religion has been used as a means to justify American preoccupation with sport. Not only is sport seen as having an appeal to God, it has also a means through which religious bodies have to reinforce its membership. For instance, the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) use sport through the provision of sporting facilities and excellent sporting programmes to attract new members, students and even donors.
Amara (2008) states that through sport, nationalistic mobilisation has taken place throughout the world cutting across class, gender and sectarian differences. He claims that sport is a site for the negotiation of differences which can enhance cross-cultural experiences. As such the sport-religion nexus has the potential to minimize the clash of value systems in relation to sports participation.
In a study of eight schools in West Midlands, England, to gain an understanding as to why Muslim girls were withdrawing from physical education, Dagakasa et al. (2011) concluded that religious concerns of the girls had to be incorporated into the schools' policies as well as in its physical education programmes. Some of the specific problems that were identified by students and their parents were the lack of flexible dress codes especially as it related to the wearing of the hijab and the use of public swimming pools. Dagakasa et al. (2011) argued that a more embracing sports policy would allow for the inclusion and participation of Muslim girls.
Therefore, it is imperative in formal settings such as schools, proper intervention strategies must be undertaken to cater for religious differences as much as possible. These strategies will be helpful to physical education teachers, parents and most importantly the students.
Local religious organisations must do more to encourage its membership participation in sport and physical activities. As much as sport is about competition and winning it can also be an effective means through which religious bodies can inculcate the lessons of life to its memberships.
"I don't feel it is necessary to know exactly what I am. The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning." Michel Foucault
Dr. Anand Rampersad