Ethics & Leadership BDP student Shayna Goldblatt studied how sports can be used as a vehicle for grassroots peace-building and reconciliation. Using the Barkai Center for Education, Coexistence and Soccer in Israel as a case study, she investigated how sports can be used to develop leadership skills such as teamwork and communication as well as ethical values such as sportsmanship and fair play.
“My project took a non-traditional focus in the sense that it is more common to use diplomacy and funding to try to solve a problem, and not a game… Sometimes the most effective leadership decisions involve innovation and unprecedented creativity.”
What was the origin of this research project?
My major requires each senior to conduct research and write a thesis on a topic of their choice. I have been interested in conflict resolution studies because I plan to become an attorney-mediator. After completing an internship working with a non-profit that uses soccer as a tool for conflict resolution, I became fascinated with the topic and chose to write about it for my thesis.
Discuss the process you went through to conduct your research.
I asked two faculty members to advise me on my project. I chose faculty from two very different disciplines—sport psychology and communications studies. I spent a semester conducting research trying to bring the two disciplines together. At first, my findings explained that soccer could be used as a tool for conflict resolution but my advisors encouraged me to think critically about the how and why behind my question. My final product included a model of the explicit benefits of soccer for conflict resolution on teams (between individuals) and between teams.
Describe your research project and your interest in the subject area.
I’m interested in conflict resolution because I like to help people solve problems. It’s rewarding to bring people together to resolve their differences. My internship with a soccer-focused non-profit gave me access to the idea of this type of conflict resolution. I also learned about other organizations that use sports-based programs to help kids in a variety of ways – from drug prevention to academic support. Nelson Mandela said it best, “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to unite in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair.”
How did this experience connect to your BDP?
My experience connected to my Ethics & Leadership BDP by allowing me the opportunity to think outside the box for solutions to problems that result within the strand of social justice, politics, and law. My project took a non-traditional focus in the sense that it is more common to use diplomacy and funding to try to solve a problem, and not a game. But, as I learned from my entire experience in the Ethics and Leadership BDP, sometimes the most effective leadership decisions involve innovation and unprecedented creativity.
In what ways has this Connecting Experience shaped your plans for the future?
Academically, this project allowed me to take an abstract concept and make it concrete – a skill that will undoubtedly be helpful as I pursue higher education and a life dedicated to problem solving. From a career standpoint, I gained more experience with the field of conflict resolution, which will serve me well as I seek to become an attorney-mediator. Also, I had the opportunity to make a poster and present it at the BDP poster session. I had to explain my findings in a clear and concise manner. That type of experience will serve me well in graduate school and in the working world.