GOOD

Four Ways To Fix Youth Sports Right Now

Athletes and leaders met to discuss the challenges facing youth sports and how to help.

Numerous studies have highlighted the relationship between youth sports and improved grades at school, along with future leadership opportunities. Still, athletes with disabilities, families with lower incomes, or those without physical education programs at school still find themselves at a disadvantage.

That’s why LA84 Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to youth sports programs, focused the theme of a recent daylong summit on #PlayforAll, which emphasizes the power of sports to unite and cross boundaries of ability, gender, household income, or zip code. Olympians, Paralympians, college athletes, youth athletes, and leaders in the field from across the country spoke on the most pressing issues affecting youth sports right now.


Here’s what we learned.

Paralympian Kendall Stier and USC long snapper Jake Olson. Image courtesy of LA84 Foundation.

1. Small changes = big difference.

Minor tweaks can make a sport accessible to more athletes. Jake Olson, a long snapper at the University of Southern California who became blind when he was 12 years old, spoke about how his teammates and coach have made small modifications to help him be able to participate in the game he loves dearly. Trojans head coach Clay Helton works with the opposing team to ensure safety on both sides whenever Olson comes out to kick.

“I work with the holder to coordinate the snap,” Olson said. “It’s taken a little extra work for us, but the ability for [my teammates] to realize that I can do it — that I’m pulling my weight — it impacts them and it impacts me.”

Similarly, aspiring Paralympian Kendall Stier also asked for a small change that could make a huge difference for many other athletes from the disabled community.

“What I would like to see is these simple three words added to articles about 2028: ‘The Olympics — and the Paralympics — are coming to Los Angeles,” she said. Stier is the 2016 California Interscholastic Federation state track and field champion for girls seated shot put, 2017 CIF state track and field qualifier, and the 2017 U.S. Paralympics national champion in women’s shot put.

2. Bring back structured play at school.

The resounding message from advocates is that physical education in schools is the first place to start in terms of restoring access for all kids to sports, and, given the numerous physical and mental benefits of structured play, it’s “a social justice issue” when the opportunity to participate is limited only to those who come from advantaged backgrounds.

Two-time NBA All-Star and activist Baron Davis spoke about the “Beyond The Bell” program, in which the Los Angeles Unified School District offers free afterschool sports programs at its middle schools. It simply gives kids, many of whom would be unable to otherwise, a chance to play.

Program participants are active for 45 minutes per day, five days a week. The impact has been significant. Regular participants see improvement in math pass rates and aptitude and higher GPAs when they move on to high school, and the program actually sees more students taking part in sports as they get older. Nearly 43% of kids play more than one sport; this “sport sampling” has advantages over specializing in one sport from an early age, which studies suggest may increase the risk of injury and burnout.

Olympic gold medal winners Julie Foudy and Kerri Walsh discuss athlete burnout. Image courtesy of LA84 Foundation.

3. Let kids be kids.

Don’t let kids get burned out on a sport. Olympic gold medalists Allyson Felix and Kerri Walsh spoke about the value of playing many different sports at a young age and waiting to specialize until later in life. In fact, Felix said she thinks it’s what has led to a longer career in track and field. “Let your child find their passion,” Felix said. “Let them be kids.”

Walsh agreed. After winning gold but almost losing her marriage after Beijing in 2008, she spoke about how fierce competition can sometimes get in the way of what really matters in life. When it comes to her own kids, she thinks that allowing them to enjoy the benefits of play without a focus on winning is important. “If you ever see a child play, it's the meaning of life,” she said. “They grow through experience in their mind, body, and soul. I want to show my kids how to play with joy.”

4. Hire more female coaches.

Kids benefit from experiencing coaches of all genders. Data from a 2015 study by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association shows only 27% of youth coaches are female, a statistic that experts from the Women’s Sports Foundation and others are actively working to change. A panel of experts spoke about the numerous benefits for athletes of all ages of having experienced coaches of both genders — but particularly at the youth level — in guiding them on the playing field, court, or gym.

Ultimately, inclusion starts from the top — from leadership of sports organizations to coaches to athletes — and this sets the table for future opportunities for inclusion of both genders in the workplace and beyond.

Sports
via Douglas Muth / Flickr

Sin City is doing something good for its less fortunate citizens as well as those who've broken the law this month. The city of Las Vegas, Nevada will drop any parking ticket fines for those who make a donation to a local food bank.

A parking ticket can cost up to $100 in Las Vegas but the whole thing can be forgiven by bringing in non-perishable food items of equal or greater value to the Parking Services Offices at 500 S. Main Street through December 16.

The program is designed to help the less fortunate during the holidays.

Keep Reading Show less
Communities

For more than 20 years. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has served the citizens of Maine in the U.S. Senate. For most of that time, she has enjoyed a hard-fought reputation as a moderate Republican who methodically builds bridges and consensus in an era of political polarization. To millions of political observers, she exemplified the best of post-partisan leadership, finding a "third way" through the static of ideological tribalism.

However, all of that has changed since the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Voters in Maine, particularly those who lean left, have run out of patience with Collins and her seeming refusal to stand up to Trump. That frustration peaked with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
via Truthout.org / Flickr and Dimitri Rodriguez / Flickr

Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign looks to be getting a huge big shot in the arm after it's faced some difficulties over the past few weeks.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading voice in the Democratic parties progressive, Democratic Socialist wing, is expected to endorse Sanders' campaign at the "Bernie's Back" rally in Queens, New York this Saturday.

Fellow member of "the Squad," Ilhan Omar, endorsed him on Wednesday.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
Photo by HAL9001 on Unsplash

The U.K. is trying to reach its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, but aviation may become the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.K. by that same year. A new study commissioned by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) and conducted at the Imperial College London says that in order for the U.K. to reach its target, aviation can only see a 25% increase, and they've got a very specific recommendation on how to fix it: Curb frequent flyer programs.

Currently, air travel accounts for 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, however that number is projected to increase for several reasons. There's a growing demand for air travel, yet it's harder to decarbonize aviation. Electric cars are becoming more common. Electric planes, not so much. If things keep on going the way they are, flights in the U.K. should increase by 50%.

Nearly every airline in the world has a frequent flyer program. The programs offer perks, including free flights, if customers get a certain amount of points. According to the study, 70% of all flights from the U.K. are taken by 15% of the population, with many people taking additional (and arguably unnecessary) flights to "maintain their privileged traveler status."

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet