We are trying to change the culture of sports. And we are trying to do so in the face of an industry that is so often obsessed with money, glamour and winning that it frequently undermines the very values it should be championing. Sports are supposed to be fun for kids. But too many adults are sending kids the messages that it is a corrupt and valueless endeavor. These adults aren't just the athletes and coaches who perpetrate the egregious behavior, but the sponsors and endorsers who are far too willing to look the other way if another winning season is in sight.
We cannot look the other way.
Fewer children may be participating in sports than ever before because the next generation is turned off by the negative sports culture in which winning is often prioritized above all else. The real tragedy is not that they might lead to a smaller pool of professional athletes and Olympians one day—but the fact that they result in fewer kids who learn the good stuff from sports….stuff that might just be essential for them to lead successful lives.
Sports provide kids places to belong; mentors who care; opportunities to challenge themselves and take risks; chances to learn new skills; physical exercise; a sense of discipline and the pathways to leadership. Up2Us is leading the sports-based youth development (SBYD) movement because there is far too much at stake. Kids need these skills far more than they need another headline about the despicable behavior of their favorite athlete or coach. Ironically, in most cases, that athlete or coach has all the money and endorsements they need to make a comeback. But for many kids where sports are a lifeline, the decision to stop playing may impact their academics, social choices and futures.
We’ve all seen the headlines this past month and this past year about the scandals involving coaches and athletes. They are so ingrained in our culture that we can probably name a dozen of them off the top of our head. So I’d like to end this blog with a SBYD Sports Trivia:
1. Name a basketball coach who spent 3 extra hours each day mentoring his players to ensure that they all graduated high school on time.
2. Name a high school soccer player who started a peewee league just so the little kids in his low-income community would have a safe place to be.
3. Name a rower who won a scholarship to college, and then turned down a Wall Street job just so she could go back to her inner-city neighborhood and coach girls like her.
4. Name a teenage boxer who was the first in his family to make it to college because his coach was the one adult who always believed in him.
How many of these coaches and athletes did you identify?
How many made the news?
Let's build a movement together.