Solving Youth Sports Biggest Problems in 48-hours

Asia Mape
In Learn
By Asia Mape | September 18, 2019

Solving Youth Sports Biggest Problems in 48-hours

Not an easy task, when you consider some of the solutions are as varied as the problems themselves. Take for example, the issue of not enough kids being active, and the majority of kids quitting sports altogether by age 11. Is it over-bearing parents and coaches professionalizing sports and burning kids out? Or is it lack of opportunities for kids in the lower socioeconomic neighborhoods who can’t afford to play? It’s both of course. The problem looks very similar, but the solutions are very different. Well, for 48-hours, the Aspen Institute’s Project Play brought together some of youth sports brightest and biggest disruptors, newsmakers, and advocates to help solve this problem and so many more.  The topics covered ranged from “How to reform women’s gymnastics”, to “Revitalizing in-town leagues”, to “How to reintroduce free play”. We were honored to be asked to mediate a roundtable discussion on what resources parents have to affect change in their communities.

Here are a few of our favorite nuggets, quotes, interesting stats or just things that resonated.

David Brooks – Journalist NYTimes & Weave: The Social Fabric Project

David Brooks and Timothy Shriver

  • Need to teach both competitive and compassionate virtues: Competitive Virtues (strength dedication, practice) Compassionate Virtues (gentleness, surrender, forgiveness, grace)
  • We need to change the idea of kids being unseen, unheard & disrespected – there’s a 70% rise in teen suicide
  • When people find our society thousands of years from now, what will be our mark; huge sport courts, sports domes, and miles and miles of play fields? It shows what we value most.
  • The neighborhood is the unit of change, you can’t just clean the part of the pool you’re swimming in

David Egner – Ralph Wilson Jr. Foundation

  • Only 13% of kids get the activity needed in Midwest region of our country
  • “Survival of democracy depends on getting youth sports engaged”

Tom Farrey – Executive Director Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program

  • The key to change is reaching into homes and speaking to parents

Jon Solomon – Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program

  • Don’t wait out a bad coach or a bad season, make a change, communicate early in the process.

Anne Pringle – Mother of 3 and panelist

Anna Pringle

  • We were entering sports at the age kids today are quitting
  • She lived in a town in Alabama where no homework or scheduled activities were allowed on Wednesdays

Timothy Shriver – Chairman Of Special Olympics

  • Kids are being told from an early age that they aren’t good enough, which is why so many are quitting
  • Your best giving of yourself IS good enough, that is winning

Chris Webber – Former NBA star and current TNT commentator

  • Coaches need to be good teachers and teach character, it’s not as important that they get you to college

  • Parents get involved! Don’t sit back and think it will be ok and rely on coaches and everyone else, GET INVOLVED.
  • Create a shift, make a change. The coach your kid had who was a jerk, is still a jerk and is still working with kids.
  • Coaches insert a real life lesson inside your practice lessons

Peter Gilbert – Flimmaker, created the iconic documentary, Hoop Dreams

  • Filmed and followed one particularly large basketball organization for 4-years, but can’t make anything of the footage. 60% of what he filmed was ‘dirty’. Things were so out of control, that nobody even noticed or cared that his crew filmed it.

Valorie Kondos Field – Former UCLA head gymnastics coach

  • Don’t believe in the word failure. “Get over yourself it’s called athletics. Fall down 11 times, get up 12.”
  • You can feel success without winning.
  • Reward clubs for amount of kids in clubs and amount they keep in program, not for wins 
  • Joy is the stuff that we get when we work hard towards a goal, it’s not fun, it’s joy.

Erik Bakich – University of Michigan men’s baseball coach

  • “We want our rosters to look like the United States of America” – 1/3 of his players are from a diverse background
  • All good coaches don’t see talent as fixed

John Bacon – best selling author, speaker and commentator

  • In order to have change you have to have chaos
  • Favorite quote, an offensive lineman coach when asked, ‘how are we going to be this season?, responded, “Come back in twenty years and I’ll tell you, once I see what kind of men they’ve become.”

To learn more about Project Play and how to help:

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