Youth sports and the bliss of limitless potential

Speaking of new cabinet names and posts, the president-elect ought to run and hire Donna Lopiano as Secretary of Youth Sports or some sort of Youth Sports Czar. In a speech in August at the Chautauqua Institution (it was rebroadcast the other day on the local public radio station),  the good doctor related the connection between success, health, and sports for all children as Title IX hit its 36th anniversary.

Lopiano makes the case for youth sports as a healthy lifestyle booster, which, along with our views here on smart, natural farming and food-making, sounds good to us. But despite the gains of Title IX, the lifestyles of today’s youth — encouraged by their parents — are leading them to an unhealthier way of life, with too much TV and computer time and not enough exercise. The result is a sedentary existence that, Lopiano predicts, will lead today’s generation of younger children to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents and “if we continue with two out of three kids not getting even the most minimal physical activity, then one out of every three children born in the Year 2000 is going to be a type-2 diabetic. And economically, we cannot afford to deal with that kind of a health statistic.”

Other items of note from Dr. Lopiano’s address:

  • It was fathers, and ironically not the members of the Sixties Women’s Movement, that pushed for Title IX, and supported it with their wallets in paying for lawsuits to protect the gains that dads knew sports would provide their daughters. The Women’s Movement, at the time, viewed sports as a propagation of an aggressive culture that promoted violence in boys, Lopiano said. Dads knew better, seeing youth sports as builders of competitive leaders able to function cooperatively on a team.
  • Economically, and perhaps quite obviously, sports opportunities for inner city children are not as great for children of the suburbs, leading to a health gap there, too.
  • A high percentage (something like 70% or 80%) of women executives identified themselves as former scholastic athletes.

Dr. Lopiano closed with a story about a conversation she had with a top girls high school basketball player and the girl’s 8-year-old sister. The younger girl told Dr. Lopiano that she runs the 800 meters. The older sister explained that she and her brother baby-sit their younger sister on Saturdays by taking her to track practice, while their mother works. There, they employ their little sibling as a “rabbit,” sending her out with a one-lap head start on the 400-meter track and then attempting to catch up to and lap her.

When Dr. Lopiano asked the older sister how this 8-year-old girl came to believe she could compete in such a grueling race as the 800, the 17-year-old older sister replied: “She runs the 800 meters because nobody said she couldn’t.”


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