Partner Spotlight: A Move Towards Kindness in Youth Sports

Kindness in sports

This forced pause on youth and local sports has pushed our community to consider what the future of youth sports will look like.  Beyond the short term changes of temperature checks and face masks, there are more significant potential long-term changes in store – increased access to sport, higher retention and participation rates, or a complete shift in the value sports provide to young people. While no one knows what the “the new normal in youth sports” will look like, one thing is certain: it will be different. 

 

How can we take the pause of COVID-19 to run some new plays and make youth sports better? How can we leverage the youth sports platform in the movement for social equality? This week, we’ll be spotlighting organizations on social media who focus on serving the underserved, highlighting innovative partnerships that impact communities, and elevating voices that express unique points of view.  

 

LeagueApps partner and thought leader Logan Kosmalski, Co-founder and Director of Operations at ProSkills, shared his thoughts on what he sees for the future of youth sports. 

 


 

As the world of youth sports hopes to begin its reemergence from the threat of the coronavirus, over the last two months many youth sports leaders have spoken of a “reset” or “fresh start” to an industry that was largely absent of noble values and consistently toxic.

 

What is needed now is a change in perspective within the world of American youth sports. A shift away from a focus on wins and losses or the pursuit of scholarships, status and money.  We need a shift towards kindness.

 

At its best, youth sports promote fellowship and unity. At its worst, it brings out our tribal nature and further divides an already divisive culture. This is what many of us in the industry have come to see as commonplace in our work. Parental violence, a mass exodus of youth officials and a “me” mentality have taken over what can and should be an educational experience for children and a source of positive societal growth.

 

We can begin to take steps towards recovering youth sports when we focus on kindness and commonalities. It is my belief that the behavior seen at youth sporting events is either misguided love or misdirected fear. 

 

One commonality that everyone at youth sporting events shares is the love for their children. There is little doubt that the world of sports and media has led parents to believe that certain steps must be taken for their child to be “successful” in their sport. Whether it’s, specialization, the necessity of getting exposure or instilling a need for “toughness”, parents are buying into these beliefs out of love for their children. We all want what’s best for our children.

 

On the other side, there is a fear of those that are different or a fear of failure, humiliation, or not belonging. It is a common belief that parents’ misbehavior can be attributed to their desire to live vicariously through their children. Could it also be that parents are fearful that their children will be labeled as a “loser” and potentially lose friends, social status or bring shame and disappointment to their parents? The possible origins of this fear and shame are many, but at the heart of all of it is our natural human desire for belonging and a fear of not belonging. 

 

So here we have our commonalities. We all love our children and we all, parents, coaches and players alike, yearn for belonging. Lastly, we love sports.

 

If we can establish Kindness as a core value of youth sports in America, we can begin to bring these commonalities back into focus. Kindness has been shown to lower the levels of the stress hormone cortisol while raising levels of oxytocin, which contributes to a healthy heart and improved blood pressure. The benefits of kindness to an individual’s well-being are scientifically proven, not to mention the benefits to the person on the receiving end of an act of kindness. 

 

As former surgeon general Vivek Murthy writes in his book Together, “Kindness can bridge the divides between us, healing our society even as it relieves our personal loneliness and brings us together.” 

 

We can begin this movement by taking three steps.

1. Youth sports organizations, event organizers and league administrators in America pledge to make Kindness one of, if not their only, core value. Organization and industry leaders should speak about Kindness on a daily basis. Decisions within the industry can be made with Kindness as their guiding principle. Coaches, players, parents and officials should be led towards kindness while also trained to respond to acts of impudence or malice. Despite what some may say, kindness and competition are not mutually exclusive.
2. Organizations make a strong commitment to non-violence and agree to hold violent offenders accountable. Violence has no place in a setting meant to educate young people.
3. Youth sports establishes new, intentional acts of kindness before, during and after competitions. Participants, parents, coaches and officials can partake in more meaningful pregame exchanges. Acts of kindness and sportsmanship will be encouraged and rewarded during competition.

 

A move towards kindness in youth sports will be neither easy nor immediate. But after such a sudden and emotional disruption in sports activities, we have not been presented with a better opportunity to institute a change in mindset and behavior in our lifetimes. The world of youth sports needs a restart and our children need and deserve a healthier and more educational environment. The long term benefits of kindness to both individuals and society can not be underestimated.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

LeagueApps

This piece was written by a member of the LeagueApps content team.
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