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The Youth Experience via Sports…

As adults, most of us look back at our youth and have fond memories of our youth experiences playing sports in youth leagues, playgrounds and high school and a lot of times we share those memories and the life lessons we learned from sports with friends, spouses and our children. There is a natural affinity between young people and sports which can be used to open dialogue about a range of pertinent issues. Indy Youth Sports (IYS) utilizes sports as a positive vehicle to advocate the ideals of education, tolerance, conflict resolution and the “American Dream.” In today’s urban America, more and more of our youth are missing out on the youth experience via sports, and communities are paying a dire price for this lack of programming. The Indianapolis Fox 59 online article (2/15/16) by Aishah Hasnie revealed “statistics released by the city of Indianapolis just a few weeks ago showed the increases in youth violence in Marion County. In 2012, five homicide victims were under age 18. By 2013, that increased to seven.In 2014, the number rose to 13, and then to 11 by 2015. Those same statistics also show that children are increasingly becoming suspects in crimes.” According to many criminology experts, the most effective approach to reducing youth crime is to steer young people away from negative social activities before they become involved in criminal activities (Hartmann and Depro, 2006). It is impractical to make the assertion that organized youth sport alone can reduce the levels of youth crime in Indianapolis because there are various complex, and multidimensional causes of youth crime in our society. Organized sport programs can, however, contribute to reducing youth crime by giving young people a positive identity, feelings of empowerment, and by helping youth acquire leadership, teamwork and self-governance skills under adult supervision (Jamieson and Ross, 2007). The organized sport programs that are successful at reducing youth crime appear to develop feelings of competence, connectedness and empowerment among youth (Gatz et al, 2002). Sport programs dominated by unequal access and the obsession to win-at-all-costs often foster social problems among at-risk youth (Hawkins, 1998).  The benefits of organized sport for at-risk youth are maximized if programs are skills-based, team focused and learning. Hope is conceptualized as a process of goal pursuit involving the generation of multiple routes toward a chosen goal and maintenance of motivational levels needed to make progress along these routes (Snyder et al., 1991). As president of Indy Youth Sports, we pride ourselves as an organization that develops hope in young people. We have created an environment and programing via football that engages young males between the ages of 6-18 in Marion County, Indianapolis. In 2015, IYS utilized football to engage and work with over 2500 at risk young males in the city of Indianapolis. The young men in our organization participated in programs providing, college exposure, academic tracking, recognition of academic and athletic achievement and education regarding nutrition. All these programs are designed to help young males to build self-esteem, HOPE and a desire to grow into productive citizens.

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