This Simple Rule Change Massively Expanded Public Access To Youth Sports

An empathetic way to combat the “pay-to-play” trend

Image via City of Gaithersburg

Marc Berk, a health policy researcher and volunteer youth baseball coach in Maryland, published a study this month offering a solution that could balance the playing field for families priced out of youth sports. His idea: Destigmatize the process of asking for financial aid.

In Gaithersburg, where Berk conducted his research, the city agrees to waive youth sports registration fees for those who request the service. Normally families must fill out forms to document their income levels and demonstrate need. But in 2009, the year of the study, the city modified its policy, requiring only that families mark a checkbox on the sign-up form that read, “I am a resident of the City, and I am requesting a waiver of all fees,” which they would automatically receive.

Compared to 2008, the number of children receiving waivers in 2009 increased more than 1,200 percent. The majority of the waivers helped students attending predominately low-income (Title 1) schools.

Image via Journal of Park and Recreation Administration

The point, Berk says, is that requiring families to document their economic need in order to receive this service is prohibitive. “Some parents may find it embarrassing to be told that a program does concur with the family’s conclusion that they are not able to pay,” Berc writes in the report. He compares the stigma associated with requesting financial assistance for sports to the stigma discouraging participation in social programs like Medicaid and unemployment compensation.

The cost of playing youth sports has escalated dramatically in recent years. In addition to public programs charging “pay-to-play” fees, equipment is growing more expensive, and private teams are growing more important to college recruiting. Many children simply can’t afford to compete. According to a 2014 Sports and Fitness Industry Association study, youth participation in team sports declined nearly four percent since 2009.

Berk admits waiving fees isn’t the only solution, and the study discusses additional prohibitive costs that disproportionately affect low-income families, including transportation and parents’ availability during evenings and weekends, when games and practices are typically held.

The study also notes that Gaithersburg received a grant to cover these waivers and mentions that some communities can’t afford to eliminate registration fees and absorb the costs of expanding youth sports services, which aren’t always profitable.

But if cities claim after-school sports are a social good, an argument supported by research, they should pursue methods, Berk writes, that “make the waiver process more sensitive to the needs of the users.”

via Honor Africans / Twitter

The problem with American Sign Language (ASL) is that over 500,000 people in the U.S. use it, but the country has over 330 million people.

So for those with hearing loss, the chances of coming into contact with someone who uses the language are rare. Especially outside of the deaf community.

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Looking back, the year 1995 seems like such an innocent time. America was in the midst of its longest streak of peace and prosperity. September 11, 2001 was six years away, and the internet didn't seem like much more than a passing fad.

Twenty-four years ago, 18 million U.S. homes had modem-equipped computers, 7 million more than the year before. Most logged in through America Online where they got their email or communicated with random strangers in chat rooms.

According to a Pew Research study that year, only 32% of those who go online say they would miss it "a lot" if no longer available.

Imagine what those poll numbers would look like if the question was asked today.

RELATED: Bill and Melinda Gates had a surprising answer when asked about a 70 percent tax on the wealthiest Americans

"Few see online activities as essential to them, and no single online feature, with the exception of E-Mail, is used with any regularity," the Pew article said. "Consumers have yet to begin purchasing goods and services online, and there is little indication that online news features are changing traditional news consumption patterns."

"Late Night" host David Letterman had Microsoft founder and, at that time the richest man in the world, on his show for an interview in '95 to discuss the "the big new thing."

During the interview Letterman chided Gates about the usefulness of the new technology, comparing it to radio and tape recorders.

Gates seems excited by the internet because it will soon allow people to listen to a baseball game on their computer. To which Letterman smugly replies, "Does radio ring a bell?" to laughter from the crowd.

But Gates presses Letterman saying that the new technology allows you to listen to the game "whenever you want," to which Letterman responds, "Do tape recorders ring a bell?"

Gates then tells Letterman he can keep up with the latest in his favorite hobbies such as cigar smoking or race cars through the internet. Letterman shuts him down saying that he reads about his interests in magazines.

RELATED: Bill Gates has five books he thinks you should read this summer.

The discussion ends with the two laughing over meeting like-minded people in "troubled loner chat room on the internet."

The clip brings to mind a 1994 segment on "The Today Show" where host Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric have a similar discussion.

"What is internet anyway?" an exasperated Gumball asks. "What do you write to it like mail?"

"It's a computer billboard but it's nationwide and it's several universities all joined together and it's getting bigger and bigger all the time," a producer explains from off-stage.

Photo by Li-An Lim on Unsplash

The future generations will have to live on this Earth for years to come, and, not surprisingly, they're very concerned about the fate of our planet. We've seen a rise in youth activists, such as Greta Thunberg, who are raising awareness for climate change. A recent survey indicates that those efforts are working, as more and more Americans (especially young Americans) feel concerned about climate change.

A new CBS News poll found that 70% of Americans between 18 and 29 feel climate change is a crisis or a serious problem, while 58% of Americans over the age of 65 share those beliefs. Additionally, younger generations are more likely to feel like it's their personal responsibility to address climate change, as well as think that transitioning to 100% renewable energy is viable. Overall, 25% of Americans feel that climate change is a "crisis," and 35% feel it is a "serious problem." 10% of Americans said they think climate change is a minor problem, and 16% of Americans feel it is not a problem that worries them.

The poll found that concern for the environment isn't a partisan issue – or at least when it comes to younger generations. Two-thirds of Republicans under the age of 45 feel that addressing climate change is their duty, sentiments shared by only 38% of Republicans over the age of 45.

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