Sticks and Stones…


What if “someone” wanted to hate you? You did nothing wrong to this “someone.”  In fact, you don’t even know why this “someone” doesn’t like you.  It might be someone from work—someone from your community—someone you met at a social gathering—someone you hardly know.

Now, what if you get an odd feeling that this “someone” really is destroying you.   They are spreading rumors that are ugly and untrue.  The rumors are about your personal life.  They are not only untrue but they are embarrassing.  And now you suddenly have this sense that these rumors have gotten to your family, your neighbors, and your co-workers.  In fact, people are now talking about you behind your back.  Stories you don’t even know about.  And there’s no way to defend yourself because you don’t even know how this is happening.

But it doesn’t stop there.  Now you hear something vicious about you on the Internet, on Twitter, on Facebook, on YouTube, and even on Instagram.


This can’t be happening.  You did nothing wrong.  You don’t even know what caused this person to hate you.  But it keeps coming.  In fact, other people are doing it too.  You’re life really is getting destroyed.

What would you do?

Now, what if you’re only 14 years old?

Welcome to “Bullying 2013.”

This month across the country, several children have taken their lives because they couldn’t take the bullying.  And yet, we have made little progress on educating those responsible for our youth—our school leaders, our teachers, our coaches—on what to do about it.  In part, because many adults confuse “Bullying 2013” with “Bullying When They Grew Up.”  It’s not the same—it’s more vicious because there are more means to communicate it.

Starting this fall, Up2Us will partner with Ben Cohen’s StandUp Foundation to create a toolkit to help coaches use the power of sports as a solution to bullying.  While many youth may associate sports as an arena that fosters bullying, it in fact can be a powerful platform for preventing it.  Coaches naturally receive the respect of their athletes.  They are in a unique position to address diversity and inclusion among their teams and steer would-be bullies into pro-social behavior.  They can also be intentional about engaging those youth who are bullied into participating in sports and facing athletic challenges that can provide them a new sense of dignity and self-worth.  And, yes, all of this can take place in the context of “positive peer pressure.”  After all, that’s what a trained coach fosters, and that’s what sports are all about.

“Stick and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.”  That was once true before those names ended up all over the Internet.  It’s no longer true today.  Up2Us is proud to lead a national effort to end bullying through the power of youth sports in America.  Let’s get our community leaders and schools to do the same.

Paul Caccamo Executive Director

I would like to acknowledge Diana Cutaia for her work in this area and her support of this Up2Us effort.

Not Just Any Coach….A Trained Coach


Today, nearly every parent must leave their child in the custody and care of another adult during a good part of the workday.  During after school hours, this adult is often a coach. Yet, coaches across the country receive very little training, if any at all, on how to work with children. They may know their sport, but do they know how to address teaching sports in the context of a teenager struggling in school, or a girl coping with self-image issues, or a child who's being bullied?  Coaches should be equipped with basic tools to use sports to teach teamwork and leadership to every child during their practices.  Without this kind of training, many of the life lessons that a coach can impart are lost.  And, in some cases, this lack of training can result in coaches who are modeling the wrong behavior.  The result: an increasing number of American children drop out of sports because they feel more encouraged by the flashing victory lights of their carefully designed video games than the yelling of their untrained coaches.  And that needs to change.

snowboarding coach

I say we reverse this trend by requiring a minimum training in youth development for every coach in this country.   All coaches should undergo basic coursework on child development--emotional, physical and social---and how to maximize the sports experience to impart life skills.   This week, Up2Us completed its second National Coach Training Institute this year in New Orleans where coaches became certified in sports-based youth development.   The Up2Us Center is conducting four national coach training institutes this year, including upcoming trainings in Boston and Los Angeles.  Now just imagine if every one of the estimated 2-3 million coaches in this country, paid and volunteer, were required to attend such an institute or take courses online before taking the field?

Let’s stop imagining and start requiring.  Up2Us is leading the nation in developing professional standards around sports-based youth development.   We believe the future of youth sports is at stake.  Only when we prove the potential of our coaches to contribute to the success of the next generation of Americans will we ensure that schools and communities stop slashing their sports budgets.   And most importantly, by requiring this training in youth development, we send a reassuring message to all parents who drop their kids off at practice:  the coach who will oversee your child for these next few hours has been trained to help your child succeed in life.

Paul Caccamo

Executive Director



Dear Mrs. Obama, I would like to propose a new slogan for your second term.

You have done a lot through “Let’s Move” in raising awareness about the epidemic of childhood obesity and its dangers to the health of the next generation of Americans.  But, I think we need to focus even more on the root causes of the obesity epidemic.  The fact that kids don’t move is in fact the symptom of a larger problem.  That's why I am recommending you change the logo to “Let's Mind.”

In the last four years, I've been honored to be an AmeriCorps recipient and to be responsible for placing nearly 1000 young adults as AmeriCorps coach-mentors in underserved communities across this country. The purpose of our Coach Across America program is to get kids physically active, and we measure our impact based on how many kids we inspire to exercise regularly through sports.

But the one thing I've learned from these coaches is that before we can get to the physical health of our children, we really need to address their mental health. The obesity epidemic is far worse in communities where kids are experiencing tremendous amounts of duress because of poverty. Many of these children do not have positive relationships with other children or with caring adults who can inspire them to make the kind of life changes that would lead to their better health.  So while the purpose of our program is to promote physical health, we also spend much of our time training our coach-mentors on mental health and addressing the trauma that so many urban youth experience in their neighborhoods.  Yes, we focus on their mind.

Breaking through the mindset of children who are often stressed, socially isolated or distrusting of adults is the first step to inspiring change in their lives.  Once this trust is established, our coaches can then influence our kids to regularly exercise (and to regularly attend school too!).   In a nutshell, these coaches create an atmosphere where the mental changes happen---the physical changes then follow.

“Let’s Mind” means something else too.

Many children grow up in atmospheres where they do not think adults “mind” about them.  They may come from homes that are dysfunctional or lack parental authority, or attend overcrowded schools where they see their teachers and other authority figures as not caring.   Consequently, they internalize this and learn not to care about themselves or others.  This contributes to our obesity epidemic and it also leads to our youth violence epidemic in which children do not value life.

We train our coaches to show kids that they “mind” about them. This is a powerful lesson for working with all children, even those who at first seem the most hardened.  After all, our coaches can tell you better than me: with a little minding all children are capable of amazing things….like regular exercise, doing well in school, and contributing to their communities.

So I say let's capitalize on what you started in the first term by getting at the root issue that isolates children from the kinds of activities that get them moving.

Let's Mind.


Paul Caccamo Executive Director