Roy’s Ramble, September 27, 2019

  • The Aspen Institute Project Play Summit in Detroit.  Supported by the Ralph Wilson, Jr. Foundation, the Summit brought together community organizations from around the country to look at some of the major issues in youth sports.  Some of the most interesting points are listed below.   I have noted a few points here but there is so much more substance that goes into these issues and I will be writing more coverage over the next few weeks.
  • Tim Shriver from Special Olympics had one of the best analogies of the conference.  He talked about the fact that sports is virtually the only subject where we discourage participation at a very early age if someone does not show immediate proficiency.  Many athletes are “retiring” or quitting at increasingly earlier ages because they are not selected for elite travel sports teams or because they feel they will not be successful at higher levels of that sport.   Shriver emphasized that we do not stop teaching kids math or English after 2nd grade, just because they do not demonstrate proficiency at an early age. We continue to educate them and improve their skills.  Yet a lot of kids do not keep playing sports after 10 or 12 years old.  The problem arises in that they do not continue to develop a love for the sport which prevents them from getting the needed amount of activity, decreases the likelihood they will become passionate fans about sports and increases the likelihood that they will fail to develop all of the positive things which come out of participation sports such as a healthier lifestyle, decreased obesity and abilities to collaborate, lead and problem solve.
  • Age of boys retiring, age of girls retiring.  These early retirement ages impact all of the issues listed above and have an enormous downstream cost through education, health care, obesity and criminal justice issues.  The challenges continue to overlap because as we see from this whole process, the lack of participation in sports has a detrimental impact on so many other parts of their lives.  The increased opportunities for leadership, improved self-image, healthier eating habits, life-long increases in activity levels and much more demonstrate how crucial it is that we keep kids engaged and active.  Some communities struggle not only to “keep” them involved in sports, but to get them involved in the first place.  It is challenging to see an easy path to increase these levels of engagement without substantial investment in the organizations that have their roots in the community and receive support from the community.
  • The recommended level of activity for kids is no less than 60 minutes per day.  You have probably seen the NFL “Play 60” Commercials.   Unfortunately, in the USA, despite all of our resources, 75% of kids do not get that recommended level of activity.  As schools eliminate recess, gym classes and many intramural sports, many metro areas see that level of inactivity rises to over 85%.  What is hidden in these numbers, is the fact that the downstream costs to the community are enormous.  Estimates from the Buffalo and Detroit markets are that reducing the inactivity level “only” to the 75% level would save over $1 Billion.  Yes, billion with a capital “B”.  So if you break that number down it is approximately $100 Million per percentage point.  So the investment in activity and youth sports is clearly something that has benefits beyond those that most people observe solely in the competitive sports sphere.



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