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    Passion of Parents in Youth Sports

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    Parents really love to involve their kids in competitive sports.  Sometimes too much.

    Sports is an ingrained part of the American landscape. It is so much a part of our daily lives that most people cannot imagine life without watching or playing on a daily basis.

    A passion for sports is instilled in most kids from an early age. In my family, it was not so much. My mother took me out of baseball in kindergarten because the practices were too late at night. From that, my mother later extrapolated that it was somehow her fault that I didn’t become any good at baseball and, therefore, could not make millions of dollars. For her comfort, it can be noted that I never turned out good at any other sport either and made not a single cent as an athlete.

    The Anomaly and The Norm

    The anomaly of my situation was that my mother didn’t encourage my participation in sports. It is quite normal that parents want their kids participating in sports. They encourage it. Indeed, that translates into a majority of kids participating. A detailed article on data of youth sports, shows that 75% of boys and 69% of girls play.

    For a larger estimate, thirty to forty-five million kids are involved in some sport and parents’ push to have their kids involved seems fueled by at least a little bit of grandeur and hope for the future. There are any number of articles already written about the nature of crazed parents pushing their kids to excel on the field.

    Sometimes, parents and coaches push kids too far.

    While encouragement and praise are natural coaching strategies, and excelling at the craft is mostly the point, there are still a lot of physical and psychological development concerns. Just the right balance needs to be considered from a coaching standpoint. That coaching should probably concern a more diverse life beyond sports, which considers health and well-being.

    There are great ambitions that children and elders have and a good deal of growth that comes from athletic experiences. The encouragement is a positive, but the desire and success are the child’s own and can only be measured by their own standards. There is certainly a lot at stake. However, a wise gambler would know that the odds of failure far outweigh the opportunity for success.

    My situation was also the norm because no kids are likely to grow up to make any money from sports, much less millions. Even the kids that grow up into excellent athletes also need a lot of fortuitous bounces to get anywhere in the business.

    An NCAA chart outlines a picture of the chances that any given child will make it big. To be sure, it’s extremely hard to make it in sports. Most kids that play youth sports never end up playing high school sports. Then, very few high school athletes go on to play in college and very few of those make it professionally.

    As the chart shows, with over 1,000,000 participants, football is by far the most common high school sport. Of those, 6.5% go on to play college football. Of those, 1.6% get drafted by an NFL team. For the best odds, baseball and hockey players are considerably better bets to make it to professional ranks than basketball, soccer and football. Still, the chances are pretty miniscule. About half of one percent of high school baseball players get drafted by major league teams. And most draft picks never see a major league field much less a multimillion dollar contract.

    What is the cost?

    There is a cost to every decision in life, particularly those that don’t pan out into big paydays. So, what are some of those risks?

    A portrait of one slice of the American life shows a family who invests most of their time and resources in their kids’ athletics, driving the billion dollar youth sports industry, just for the hope that they become one of the five to ten percent that will go on to play varsity sports. At best, the parents are hopeful their children will learn great lessons from their experiences.

    It is certainly true that people learn well from adversity. With only one winner, it would appear there is a lot of adversity in competitive sports. That may be a great learning experience, but are the kids having fun?  In one report, 84% wish they had more fun and 31% wish adults weren’t watching and putting pressure on them. This all seems to lead to the 70% attrition rate.

    That’s not even the dark side. The top end of the spectrum isn’t terribly rosy, but what about the opposite end?

    About three million children go to the emergency room every year from playing sports. Another five million are treated for minor injuries. So, while it is about a .01% chance any given child will wind up with a decent payday from sports, there is pretty close to a 100% chance they will get hurt.

    The emergency room is not a great place to end up for kids in sports.

    In October, a NYC teenager died after a collision in a soccer game. Eleven kids died playing high school football in 2015. While death and disability is fairly rare, they are no less than the odds of making it big. Moreover, minor injuries are not exactly minor.  

    Concussions are easy to sustain and common among young athletes. They result in poor academic performance, attendance and the overall ability to learn. The younger a person is, the greater the issues surrounding head injuries. Also, the lifetime consequences of chronic pain result in treatments which create an entirely different array of problems, for example juvenile arthritis affects over 300,000 children. The magnitude of a future life of headaches and chiropractic visits is best realized by medical professionals. If nothing else, there are many more jobs created in the medical and insurance fields by more people getting and staying hurt.

    There are endless untold complications from playing youth sports that go along with the billions of dollars spent on keeping kids playing.

    Hedging Bets

    I don’t mean to bash sports. There is no doubt to the growth opportunities. At the same time, I would argue that most of those lessons can be learned in other avenues, but there still is a redeeming value to sports. The idea of victory gives people hope and the execution of a game plan brings excitement.

    The concept of sports doesn’t necessarily have to include the traditional big money sports. Light exercise is even better than high energy or contact sports. Combining exercise with academics helps students learn. For healing sake, many sport-like games can take the place of sports. For example, foosball is a great tool used in rehabilitation for injuries.

    The point really comes down to, parents need to understand that not everyone can make it big in the same industry already flooded with talent. Moreover, kids take time to develop. Rushing into a sport they are not ready for can only risk injury and hinder development in other age appropriate areas. Somehow, many parents lose sight of the realities and try to live their own lost dreams vicariously through their children’s success.

    Kids need to grow up according to their own dreams and desires. Success only comes from a person’s own initiative. It’s a hard balance. The younger start a person gets in life, the better they will typically be at something. On the other hand, it takes time to discover true interests.

    Diversity always seems to be the key. The more options a kid has, the better.  

    All the evidence in the world suggests kids that play sports have the best chance for success and the least chance for injuries when playing multiple sports. Likewise, a kid’s most well-roundedness will come not from being entirely immersed in sports, but also other outlets. I shudder to think however, what most parents who push their kids in athletics would think of them going into stage acting. The glory and bragging rights just wouldn’t be the same for those parents.

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    Daniel is a freelance writer and observationist, former English teacher and failed comedian. His interests include mindfulness, poverty, the environment and support for disenfranchised people worldwide. He is an ardent champion of terrestrial, freeform radio and a DJ at Radio Boise.

    Culture

    What Do You Know About Disability Cultural Competence?

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    Recently, I had the opportunity to give a webinar on disability cultural competence to social service workers, but was met with many blank stares. As a disabled social worker myself, I often notice that the disability community is not recognized as a cultural group. Disability is also not considered as a social identity in diversity considerations, despite the ways the community feels about it. Frankly, our field has a long way to go when it comes to developing disability cultural competence. Let’s see if we can change that.

    Why the We Need to Prioritize the Disability Community

    You may be asking yourself, why all the focus on disability? Well, the disability community comprises 26 percent of the adult U.S. population – that’s one in four Americans according to the Centers for Disease Control. Among children under the age of 18, estimates suggest that 4.3 percent of the population is disabled according to the U.S. Census from 2019. This means that social services workers are interacting with the disability community all over! It’s also important to note that disability transcends race, ethnicity, gender and other social identities, as seen in the graphic below (courtesy of Courtney-Long, Romano, Carroll, et al., 2017). So we need to remember to be intersectional in our  practice – these are not siloed communities.

    Courtesy of Courtney-Long, Romano, Carroll, et al., 2017

    Importance of Disability Identity

    I’d like to transition now to talking about the importance of having a disability identity. Some people identify as disabled from a cultural perspective. Some people are not even aware that this is an option and you can open their eyes to the world of disability as a resource for them. In other words, for some, this is a missed opportunity to connect to a supportive network. For others, it’s a choice not to identify as disabled either due to stigma, internalized ableism or other beliefs. The idea is that developing a strong disability identity is super helpful with your long-term well-being. And in order to do this, you have to both connect with the disability community and with disability culture. So what is that?

    What is Disability Culture?

     

    In short, disability culture is the “sum total of behaviors, beliefs, ways of living, & material artifacts that are unique to persons affected by disability.” It’s essential for social service workers to be tuned in to disability culture so they can leverage it to connect with their clients. And let’s be clear, disability culture does NOT consist of disability service programs. Where we really see disability culture come alive is on social media sites, such as Twitter and Instagram. You can follow some of the major disability culture hashtags to see the dialogues and debates that are hot in our community right now, such as: #DisabilityTwitter; #DisabilityVisability; #DisabilityAwareness; #IdentityFirst; #DisabilityLife; #Spoonie,#SpoonieLife, and more.

    You may notice that the last two hashtags included the word “spoonie.” This derives from “spoon theory,” which is an actual theory based on a metaphor about how much mental and physical energy a person has to accomplish their activities of daily living (ADLs) and instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs). The disability community talks about how many “spoons” they have as a unit of measurement of energy – and sometimes refers to themselves as spoonies. Please note that in teaching you this, I am helping you to develop your disability cultural competence.

    How Build Disability Cultural Competence

    Other ways to build up your disability cultural competence are to check out the Disability Visibility Project, which tells the stories of diverse members of the community in wonderful ways. And there are a range of organizations, such as Sins Invalid, which founded the disability justice movement. You can also read the 10 principles of that movement in this short document. This will help you to tune in to the disability pride movement. We have a pride month and a pride flag too, it happens in July.

    When it comes to engaging in disability competent practice, we need to develop knowledge about disability culture and disability history. We can also consider taking the following steps to round out this competence:

    First, we need to examine our own attitudes about disability and engage in reflective practice around that. You can consider your own implicit bias about the disability community through Harvard University’s Project Implicit test about ableism, or through social worker Vilissa Thompson’s guide to checking your own ableism.

    Second, developing disability cultural competence over time also includes a careful look at the terminology we are using and respecting disabled people’s choice of identity-first language in many cases. You can read more about that here and throughout that site. The Harvard Business Review also has a thoughtful essay on why you need to stop using particular words and phrases. It’s a great resource and helpful read for many.

    Third, we also need to think respectfully about disability etiquette and how ideas play out in different parts of the disability community. One should presume competence about us – all of us! We ask that you respect our bodily autonomy, speak to the person and not their companion/interpreter, ask before you help, be sensitive about physical contact/equipment contact, don’t make assumptions about capacity, listen to us, don’t assume you know better and if you are in doubt about what to do, ask! Writer Andrew Purlang sums up his disability etiquette request as follows:

    • Don’t be afraid to notice, mention, or ask about a person’s disability when it’s relevant — but don’t go out of your way!
    • Offer to help, but make sure to listen to their response, respect their answer, & follow their directions
    • Don’t tell a disabled person about how they should think about or talk about their own disability
    • Don’t give unsolicited medical, emotional, or practical advice
    • Don’t make a disabled person responsible for managing your feelings about their disability, or for your education on disability issues
    • If you make a mistake, just say you’re sorry and move on. Don’t try to argue that you were right all along.

    Now What?

    Taken together, these steps, learning disability culture, and examining our own attitudes about disability, go a long way towards the development of disability cultural competence. But none of it will do any good if we are not fighting for disability access and disability inclusion, which are central issues for the disability community. Many people think that issues of access were solved by the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. But the implementation of that law is fraught and embattled, and there is lots of work to be done on the access front. Take a look at these simple guides below. They will go a long way in helping to engage the disability community and making us feel welcome! Above all, remember our movement’s rallying cry, “nothing about us, without us!”

    Website Accessibility

    Accessible Social Media Guide

    Meeting Accessibility

    Webinar Accessibility

    Public Event Accessibility

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    America Has an Anger Problem – Can Better “Mental Nutrition” Fix It?

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    America is a pretty angry place these days. Formerly respectful spaces like school board meetings have become bitter battlegrounds. Some people are harassing healthcare workers and threatening restaurant staff for enforcing COVID protocols. Others are openly furious with the vaccine-hesitant. Everyone, wherever they stand on the (deeply divided) political playing field, is outraged about something.

    Sure, anger is part of the human condition, but have things always been this bad? Elaine Parke thinks not—and she has a plan to get America the anger management tools it needs.

    “We’ve stopped listening to one another because we’ve become addicted to our own narrow and sometimes selfish points of view,” says Parke, author of “The Habits of Unity: 12 Months to a Stronger America…one citizen at a time” (Outskirts Press, 2021, ISBN: 978-1-9772-4276-1, $21.95, www.12habits4allofus.org). “And we seem to have lost sight of the notion that we’re personally responsible for our own behavior.

    “It’s way past time for us to take a collective deep breath and treat others with dignity, respect, and civility—and listen to them—whether we agree or not,” she adds. “It’s urgent that we make this shift now.”

    Dialing down our ire is easier said than done. We are living in extraordinarily stressful times. But there’s more at play. Parke says we are shaped by the messages we consistently consume—and in today’s connected world, a lot of those messages come from our digital diet.

    “Social media isn’t solely to blame for stoking our emotional flames—in fact, it was designed to be a source of information and to bring people together,” Parke clarifies. “But if your newsfeed is making you an angrier person, it’s on you to either log off for a few days or reassess the kind of content you’re engaging with. When we choose to focus on stories that are positive and nourishing, we go a long way toward resetting our emotional equilibrium.”

    Parke’s “The Habits of Unity” is her attempt to help people take charge of what she calls their “Mental Nutrition.” Much in the same way that we (hopefully) approach the food we eat, we need to develop the discipline to make more nutritious mental choices every day. Her book’s 365 “one-magic-minute-a-day” motivationals make it easy to hardwire these choices into habit.

    With her simple, doable framework for uplifting ourselves, boosting our mental health, and practicing unity, Parke hopes to get everyone focused on the same branded behavior each month. The idea is that the sheer force of all that concentrated positive energy sparks a unity revolution that rises from the ground up and sweeps the nation.

    Yet, until that happens, we can leverage the power of  “The Habits of Unity” on a personal level by forming one good habit per month:

    January: Help Others

    February: You Count

    March: Resolve Conflicts

    April: Take Care of Our Environment

    May: Be Grateful

    June: Reach Higher

    July: Become Involved

    August: Know Who You Are

    September: Do Your Best

    October: Be Patient and Listen

    November: Show a Positive Attitude

    December: Celebrate Community, Family, and Friends

    Those who’ve tried it say the plan is easy to put into practice. It feels good, so you’ll want to keep doing it. And there’s a ripple effect. As you become more positive, centered, and respectful, others will be drawn to you and your relationships will improve.

    “As these ripples expand, they will improve the emotional climate in our country and make it easier to seek common ground, instead of lashing out,” says Parke. “But we can’t sit around waiting for others to take action. Each American must recommit to making our country a welcoming, affirming melting pot—instead of a stewing pot.”

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    Too Many Young People Aren’t Getting the Jab – Can Music Change Their Minds?

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    When Frank Kilpatrick set out to convince more younger people to get the jab, he knew he’d have to overcome several roadblocks. One, young people tend to feel invincible, and thus somehow unaffected by the COVID-19 virus. Two, they aren’t moved by data that shows the benefits of vaccination. Three, they tend not to watch TV—especially the news—like older generations do. And so he and his team came up with a creative solution: Reach them through music.

    “Music is a kind of language for young people,” says Kilpatrick, who has come together with a team of concerned citizens via the non-profit organization Ribbons for Research to figure out what will convince more Americans to get vaccinated. “It plays a huge role in their search for identity. It’s a powerful form of self-expression. It connects them to their tribe. So we figured, why not speak their language?”

    He and his team realized the Gen Z (ages 18-24) and Millennial (ages 25-40) cohorts are vaccinated at low rates similar to those of rural Southern populations. To reach them, Kilpatrick’s team developed a focused PSA initiative with the theme “COVID-19 Is Not a Hoax.” The centerpiece of the campaign is a music single and corresponding music video titled “COVID-19 Is Hell.” It features the singer Rayko.

    Kilpatrick urges media outlets to view, download, and share the single by clicking here, and asks television and radio stations to place it into high-visibility rotation in their schedules.

    “The video is cool and fun and even sexy, yet carries a serious message,” says Kilpatrick. “By bringing a contemporary pop music vibe together with engaging images, we’re getting that message across in a way young people will be receptive to—all we need is the help of media outlets to share it with their audiences.”

    The music video is an extension of Ribbons for Research’s initial public service announcement (PSA) campaign titled Shoulda Got the Shot. These video and radio segments feature portrayals and testimonials from real people who have been seriously ill or lost a loved one due to COVID-19.

    “The idea behind the Shoulda Got the Shot PSAs and also this newest music video is to try a heartfelt, emotional, non-preachy, politically neutral approach we believe will resonate and move these groups to take action,” says Kilpatrick.

    His collaborators on the projects include director Eric Mittleman, producer Linda Kilpatrick, and associate producer Rayko Takahashi.

    To understand more about why Kilpatrick and team have decided to devote so much time and so many resources to creating this PSA project, here is a quick mini-interview with him:

    Q: Who does the Shoulda Got the Shot campaign target?

    A: We’re aiming this campaign at various underserved populations: politically polarized, lower income, minority, and rural audiences. We have a similar social media strategy aimed at the younger “party hearty” populations that feel invincible.

    Q: Why is it so urgent?

    A: Currently, although the numbers have improved over the past month or so, the U.S. vaccination rate isn’t where it should be. Quite simply, the more holdouts we can convince to get the shot, the more lives we’ll save.

    Q: What makes this campaign different?

    A: Our Shoulda Got the Shot PSA campaign doesn’t lecture its audience. It isn’t a blatant endorsement by politicians and scientists. It doesn’t tell people what to think. Our approach is based on the most proven type of human persuasion: human connection. These testimonials are raw and emotional and real. People will be more likely to trust these spokespeople in a way that they’d never trust a politician or scientist. These are people who look like them.

    I mean, you can feel Martha’s anguish when her voice breaks as she talks about how her daddy died from a hole in his lung caused by COVID-19. When she goes on to encourage others to get vaccinated, it’s clear that it comes from a genuine desire to prevent suffering. These spots are incredibly compelling.

    Q: So…why you? What drove you to launch this campaign?

    A: First, this is a cause I deeply care about. I feel much the same way about it that I felt about the Stay Alive suicide prevention documentary film I produced 18 months ago. But also, thanks to my work in the healthcare communications field, I have many years of experience in producing these kinds of permission-based approaches that feature an appeal to community agreement. I know from experience this is a powerful strategy.

    Q: How can others help?

    A: Please…if you work with a TV, cable, or radio station, or have influence with any other media outlet, air these PSAs and/or the “COVID-19 Is Hell” single and video. Share this lifesaving content with your community. Call (424) 262-5570 to get copies of the spots delivered to you, or visit www.ribbonsforresearchvideo.org and www.ribbonsforresearch.org for a preview and for more information.

    “We really have a lot of hope for this campaign,” adds Kilpatrick. “If we all join together to share these vital messages, we can help improve the numbers in under-vaccinated communities across the U.S. We can save lives—perhaps ultimately even our own.”

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