INTERVIEW. When sport helps to live (again) in society

How can you fit into society or gain a foothold again if you don’t have a network, don’t feel the strength to do so, or have lost all faith in yourself and in the future? Thousands of people across France are asking this question. Because people no longer have support or come from far away countries, have suffered financial setbacks or are known to have health problems, find themselves on the streets or are locked between four walls, they no longer manage to make these social bonds or renew a life . Faced with this immense societal challenge that integration represents, one solution very often emerges in the discourse: sport. A completely legitimate and natural reflex, because physical activity can be a great tool for integration if it is adapted to the situation, encouraged in a sustainable way, but also protected from excessive ambitions. . In any case, these are the fascinating and enlightened recommendations of sociologist Patrick Mignon, who shares some valuable elements of understanding for POSITIVE.

Photo: Shutterstock

Patrick Mignon has been a sports specialist for several decades (he was notably a researcher at Insep) and has published numerous works on the place of sport in our society. For him it is clear: it makes sense and is necessary to focus on sport to promote the integration of isolated groups.

Sport makes it possible “make yourself different”

“Like artistic activities, sport and physical exercise will create social bonds and inspire self-confidence”, he explains. However, the aspect of trust is absolutely essential, because that is what counts “to be able to do something” Alone and inactive, we lose touch with our potential. In moving with others and under their gaze we find self-respect.

“The multiplication of social capital, i.e. the multiplication of relationship channels, promotes more satisfying social participation or personal success (…) Thanks to physical activity, people will say to themselves: “I am different than what I thought or what people thought of me.”

Getting into sport, or getting back into sport when you’ve lost all ties with society, is basically giving yourself a chance get back on trackto pick up the thread of his journey again.

“Physical activities allow isolated people to progress, to integrate, to adapt, to find their place. The important thing is to find the activity that allows you to redefine yourself, to start an identity reconstruction, to redraw yourself differently. Sport is part of the offer of existing activities (…) but has a more massive appeal than artistic practice. It’s more accessible.”

patrick cute

“Sport is successful when it meets expectations”

This means that when it comes to integration, sport can succeed where other places of socialization such as school or the world of work have failed. an achievement? Without doubt. A secret ? Certainly not ! Patrick Mignon has an explanation:

“The sport, explains the sociologist, can attract people who are not at all attracted to school and anything that school entails like reading or whatever. From this point of view, sport is positive because it is a place where people go, as part of a club or an activity, to learn rules of social life, rules of hygiene, principles of regularity, etc. These are elements that will then have an interest in entering the labor market.”

Photo: Shutterstock

However, be careful. Exercising in sport alone is not enough to regain a foothold in society. If it only aims at performance and competitiveness, it will fail. It is therefore essential that it is accompanied by much broader objectives.

“Sport is successful when it meets expectations, provided the club is hospitable and not only oriented towards competition, but also towards the socio-educational values ​​of sport.”

patrick cute

So when an isolated person discovers a genuine interest in the sport and that it can be practiced together in an inclusive framework that promotes valuesthen all hopes are allowed, regardless of the situation that deprived you of social relations.

Sport, an integration activity suitable for all isolated groups

Photo: Shutterstock

Sport as an instrument of integration is aimed at a wide variety of target groups. To get an idea, here is a brief, non-exhaustive overview of the isolated people to whom associations or communities offer their help.

  • Isolated women. Because of their personal or family background, some women have lost their entire network of social connections, both friendly and professional. To restore their self-confidence and bring them back in touch with the “outside world”, initiatives rely on sport. This applies in particular (for example) to the “Toute Sport” campaign, which aims to do this “Promotion and development of the practice of sport by women living in priority neighborhoods and rural areas, as a vector of self-confidence, autonomy and socio-professional integration“.
  • homeless people. Living on the street or moving from apartment to apartment does not make it easier to regain control of a social life and, moreover, to return to stable professional activity. That’s why many clubs offer homeless people the opportunity to rebuild themselves through sport, make connections and project themselves into the future. Among them is Un ballon pour l’insertion, of which Patrick Mignon is a member. This association for the integration of homeless people “proposes building a relationship of trust with the person in difficulty, based on body reactivation, group expression and artistic creation”.
  • Immigrant. Culture shock, language barrier, absence of friends and family… It’s difficult to fit into society when you come from far away. To help immigrants find a place for themselves, sport can also be a resource. Laurent Thieule, President of the Think Tank Sport and Citizenship: “Sport is fertile ground for building a new social bond with immigrants, whether they are older generations or recent migrants.”
  • The long-term unemployed. Paralyzed by feelings of powerlessness and/or shame, the long-term unemployed sometimes succumb to legitimate temptations to withdraw and isolate themselves. Sport can be an effective means of helping those affected to break out of this vicious circle. The Île-de-France regional rugby league, for example, no longer hesitates to bet on the oval ball to help the unemployed find a job.
  • People with disabilities. Whether the disability is physical, psychological, mental or sensory, it carries the risk of isolation from a society that is struggling or reluctant to adapt to difference. But sport can also play a card in this area, provided the public authorities show the will. Example with the city of Mâcon, for which access for people with disabilities to practice sport is a declared priority.
  • That inactive youth. When you are young, have little or no education and no network, professional integration into society is not an easy task. But when we then have the opportunity to rely on a sports practice, doors can open. The Unis vers le sport association has understood this well: since 2017 it has been developing a support system for socio-professional integration for unemployed and/or untrained young people.
  • imprisoned persons. When thinking of isolated publics, it is impossible to ignore the case of inmates who are physically cut off from the outside world. Fortunately, sport can also be the way to keep up with “normal life”. The French Association of Secular Physical Education Works (Ufolep) is working in precisely this direction. It provides prisoners with physical and sports activities and has several objectives: “Discover the values ​​of sports practice for self-development and life in society, participate in a project from conception to implementation, prepare the prisoner’s reintegration…”

Regarding the detainees, Patrick Mignon specifies: “In the prison context, sport can provide discipline, especially when it is collective. There’he connects with others. Its practice can also be the means to enter into a kind of Meditation phase and introspection, self-control. This is not a miracle cure either, but sport is part of the range of offers.

“Sport is a reconciliation with the body, with everything that goes with it”

If sport promotes integration, as we have just seen, it is of course because it makes it possible reconnect with others (his training partners, team-mates, opponents, referees, organizers, etc.) and because he has gotten used to, or got used to, respecting the rules and making an effort. But there is another aspect that should not be ignored: the take control of your body.

“Sport is a reconciliation with the body, with everything that goes with it. Someone who is physically devastated, for example by alcohol or life on the streets, when they find a body to do with as they please, they are actually better off and more comfortable in society than before .”

patrick sweet

All these advantages have seduced the public authorities, even if France has not been using sport for so long as a tool to integrate isolated groups. Patrick Mignon dates the start of this strategy to the 1980s. “At that time we observed the emergence of associations that made offers and brought people together with socio-educational and reintegration goals.”

Some forty years later, even if it is “It is very difficult to produce statistics that measure the success of this type of initiative”, the sociologist is convinced that the approach is good, effective and relevant. It remains to continue the initiatives in progress, to support the associations that know their stuff in this field… and not to expect them to change the face of the world in the twinkling of an eye. “Sport is not a miracle cure, emphasizes Patrick Mignon. vsis a tool that works according to the principle of trial and error (…) and whose effects are more snowball effects than immediate effects.”

Photo: Shutterstock

The most important thing is basically allow an isolated person to embark on a journey towards a life richer in social relationships and consequently in personal success. Patrick Mignon places this idea of ​​progress at the center of his reflections on this topic. In addition, he concludes by insisting once again on this subject:

“Entering a sporting activity must be integrated into a sociological representation, namely that of the journey: someone starts at a certain point and through the interactions and encounters that he will make in sport, he will change the way he sees himself, to see society and, consequently, to pursue forms of “regularization” of its course. In other words, he will be part of a course where he is no longer the victim of his falls, his physical decline, his total exclusion, his isolation. He will regain a certain self-image and positively renegotiate his relationship with society.

patrick cute

When it comes to integration, sport can’t do everything, but it can do a lot. Enormous even. Provided we encourage him, provided we give him the time and the means to do his best in the field of socio-educational values.

This article is brought to you by the editorial staff of POSITIVR with support from the EPSA Foundation.

Leave a Comment