Blog: Inclusion on children in sport and enhancement of healthy lifestyles with good practice examples from Serbia

Children are recognized in international law as a particularly sensitive and specific category for whose protection the usual protection mechanisms are not sufficient.
Somewhere from the 17th century, the child begins to be treated as a particularly sensitive being, and it can be considered that the awakening of awareness of childhood as a concept occurs. Thanks to developmental psychologists, the characteristics and existence of the autonomy of the child’s personality have been recognized and the necessity to acknowledge, respect, shape and guarantee them normatively or to create an environment in which the rights of the child are truly recognized and realized.
Children’s rights are today a fact, a reality recognized by international law. They are normatively regulated and the process of norming will continue and progress following the development of social life.
Most important and universally recognized rights of the child:
– Right to free time, playing and culture
– Right to health protection
– Freedom of creed
– Freedom of expression
– Right to security
– Right to information
– Freedom of gathering
– Freedom of thinking
– Registration, name and nationality
– Survival and development
– Right to identity
– Parental surveillance
– Right to live with parents
– Right to education…
In addition to being a favorite childhood activity, sports contribute billions of dollars to the world’s economies every year.
Due to its multiple benefits, cultural importance and popularity, sport is recognized as an important policy priority. Politicians have adopted it as the main means of pursuing a wide range of social, cultural and political goals.
Millions of children and young people participate in sports every day around the world. For some children this is just recreation and fun, while others can participate in developmental sports programs. For some young people, sport can be their chosen future career, either as talented athletes, coaches or officials.
It contributes to:
– Health and well-being – reducing childhood obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and promoting physical activity;
– Social inclusion – promoting gender equality, religious and cultural tolerance;
– Education and personal and social development – learning about leadership and self-esteem and reducing teenage pregnancy;
– Crime reduction;
– Peace and social cohesion – reconstruction of war-torn and damaged areas community
A total of 40% of the EU population say that they engage in sports activities at least once a week, while in Serbia, only around 10% of the people practice sports once a week. Around 34% of EU citizens state that they have never engaged in physical exercise, while in Serbia as much as 56% percent of the population have never engaged in physical exercise. When the EUROBAR and CESID research data are compared, it can be seen that the main reason for low participation in sports activities is the lack of time. This is precisely the main reason cited by the EU, while the findings in Serbia show that this reason applies to smaller part of population – about 40%. There is no information about the participation of women and girls in professional, recreational and school sports, but the data on investment in women’s and men’s sports at the local level show a disproportionately small budget funds allocated for female athletes, while in some local communities there are no sporting activities suitable for girls and young women.
When it comes to the National Youth Strategy 2015-2025 developed by the Serbian Ministry of Youth and Sport, it states that one of the specific problems:
Insufficient physical activity among young people contributes to the development of many diseases. There is a notable lack of support for youth initiatives that promote healthy lifestyles.
Whereas specific goal is:
Created conditions for the development of healthy lifestyles of young women and men.
Expected results and planned activities:
– Policies and programmes to promote healthy lifestyles among young women and men are improved
– Supporting the research and monitoring of youth lifestyles and trends, conducting analysis by international standards to include a gender perspective
– Establishing a mechanism for cooperation between YPAs on the exchange of information and the development of guidelines for healthy lifestyle programmes
– Promoting public policies to fund programmes promoting healthy lifestyles
– Developing a national youth health strategy
– Supporting programmes to develop healthy lifestyles among youth, monitoring and evaluating the programmes
Enhanced capacity of young women and men to spend quality leisure time, and take part in sports and recreational activities.
– Supporting the development and implementation of the YPA programmes for the development of healthy lifestyles
– Supporting and developing programmes of sports sections and other extra-curricular activities aimed at developing health through healthy life skills, with special focus on young women
– Promoting and developing the system of school competitions and introducing diverse sport disciplines to stimulate the involvement of youth, with special focus on young women
– Supporting the activities to introduce the teaching of physical education in the curricula of institutions of higher education
– Supporting the construction, reparation and renovation of public spaces designed for the youth to spend quality leisure time
Youth sport games
Youth Sports Games are the biggest amateur sports event for children and youth in Europe. It brings together kids at primary and secondary school age enabling them to participate in 10 sports disciplines free of charge. In the 23 years of existence they have gathered more than 1.7 million participants.
The Games are organized in 3 countries: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia. In 2019, 202,000 participants competed.
the Youth Sports Games became the largest amateur sporting event in this part of Europe. They were organised under the auspices of the International Olympic Committee, the World Soccer Federation and the honorary patronage of the President of the Republic of Croatia, the President of the Croatian Parliament and the President of the Government of the Republic of Croatia.
Children and young people from all participating countries are offered the possibility of attending the competitions free of charge. The most successful individuals and teams are granted a “mini vacation“ in the form of participating in the International finals.
Through all of our activities, they emphasize the education on all aspects of Sustainablility. In doing so, they are creating an enriched environment that prepares the future generations to live a healthy and responsible life; one that will blossom into actions and ideas that could bring about changes humanity needs.
Youth of Albania and Serbia Promote Togetherness through Sport
Within the second RYCO (Regional Youth Cooperation Office) Open Call for Project Proposals co-financed by the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund, the Omladinski Košarkaški Klub “Play 017” from Serbia in partnership with the Pro-Basket Invaders Association from Albania, the High School “Sezai Suroi” and the High School “Sveti Sava” from Bujanovac, Serbia, implemented the project “Let’s Play Together”.
The project took place from December 2019 to November 2020 and contributed to regional youth cooperation and reconciliation by using sports to promote tolerance and unity. It provided young participants to strengthen their capacities and teamwork skills in order to keep promoting tolerance and social cohesion in their communities.
“Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the “Let’s Play Together” project  where I participated and where I was the captain of the Play 017 team, helped us make new friendships, learn useful things about sports, but it also helped us learn more about human rights and the importance of young people’s cooperation, who want to create a future where all of us will be equal and respected, no matter of our religion, skin color or nationality,” project representative Mr Strahinja Zdravković highlighted.
While enabling youth to play, enjoy sports and have fun along the way, the project promoted the culture of togetherness by helping young people comprehend the possibility and fruits of working together, collaborating and creating new friendships.
“In each implemented activity we tried to leave the mark of great sacrifice, energy and togetherness. Through the activities realized within the project, in addition to the promotion of sports, the project pointed out the importance of cooperation, as well as the need to engage young people to respect differences,” Doctor of Science at the Faculty of Sports and Physical Education in Serbia Mr Dušan Nikolić emphasized.
The partnerships created among organizers, participants and the students’ sports clubs involved in the project establishing a new culture of mobility and provided youth with spaces to seize new opportunities for regional cooperation.
Youth and sports games – Millennium team tennis tournament 
Millennium Team joined the Youth Sports Games event, and supported the Games as a sponsor of the tennis tournament. The Youth Sports Games are the largest amateur sports organization for children and youth in Europe and have been held for almost 30 years. In 2023, tennis tournament is called the “Millennium Team Tennis Tournament”, and the regional and national competition was held in Serbia, while the international final will be held in Split.
In 2023, four regional finals are being played in four cities in Serbia: Novi Sad, Vranje, Valjevo and Belgrade. The two first-placed competitors, in the category of boys and girls (year 2009 and younger), will qualify for the national final, which will be held in Banja Ždrelo in July 2023. The two first-placed competitors will travel to the International Final in Split in August, where they will represent the Serbian team and the participants of the “Millennium Team tennis tournament”.
One of the events within the Grand Opening ceremony that will takes place on May 15th at Trg Republike, the day before will be the big “Millennium Team tennis tournament”. On the courts of Serbian famous tennis coach Bogdan Obradović at Ada Ciganlija on May 14th, the youngest tennis players of Serbia will have another opportunity to fight for a place in the national finals.
In the 27 years that the Youth Sports Games have existed in the region, two and a half million boys and girls have participated. The participants of the games are children from Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. The mission of the Youth Sports Games is to bring together the children of the region, who through sports and socializing develop awareness of tolerance, respect for diversity and the importance of applying fair play on and off the sports fields. Children compete in ten sports disciplines, and thanks to a large number of sponsors, everything is free for children, from the first qualifying tournament to the big International Final in Split.
In addition to supporting tennis players, the Millennium Team company is a friend of children in other sports as well, such as chess, table tennis, volleyball, beach volleyball, indoor football, between two fires, handball, athletics, basketball 3×3, which can be seen on the fields where these competitions take place.
Since its foundation, the company’s focus has been on social and responsible business. Through various activities, supporting the implementation of projects, Millennium Team strives to provide support to the environment in which it operates and to create better conditions for the life of the citizens of Serbia. Through the annual strategy, they direct a significant part of the funds to projects that support and move society and young people, and sport is an important part of those projects.