"My own experiences show how sport is a powerful tool for developing life skills"

Herbert Gustavo Simões, 46, is a Professor at the Catholic University of Brasilia with postdoctoral research experience at University of Miami in the area of physical education and exercise physiology. He is also a keen sporting enthusiast, currently ranked as one of the world's fastest 110 metre hurdlists in his age bracket. Herbert is one of two lead trainers working with UNODC in Brazil as part of the Doha Declaration Global Programme sports initiative which looks to build vital life skills among 13 - 18 year olds to keep them safe from violence, crime and drugs.

UNODC recently spoke with Herbert about his background and his interest in this area.


"I grew up in a city in Brazil, living in an apartment and having little physical education as a young child. I was not good at soccer or basketball or anything involving sports. Yet despite this, somehow I became a sprinter in my early-teens! At school one day a race was held to determine the fastest pupil. We all had to take part in this and I hadn't realised I'd be so quick. But I ran and was the fastest boy in the school - much to my surprise!

After this, I began to re-evaluate things. Some of my friends had already begun experimenting with alcohol and drugs. But for me, I had started to look ahead in life for the first time. I was breaking some track records in my age group and I enjoying the training process. I started to realize the importance of studying, to have rules and structure: all the sort of things which we are discussing as part of this UNODC sports against youth crime programme, but in a far less organized way. As I got older, my coach really played a positive influence on my life and things started changing. While I still hung out with my friends - some of whom I'm still in contact with today - I stayed away from drugs and avoided drinking. I knew that my destiny would be something different.

During my teenage years I became a good athlete and started to consider what would be next. Physical education was, by this stage, a passion and so I went to university and began to do research in this area alongside my training. Since then I've not stopped: I went on to study my Master's degree and then a PhD and I continue training to today.

For some time, I've been working with people to change their lives through sports, not only to train them to become athletes, but also to help people to develop their lives positively. As I know from my own experience, sport is a powerful tool for developing essential life skills!"