The Boyertown Area Times

Youth sports opportunit­ies should be available for all

- By Dr. Myra Forrest Dr. Myra Forrest is an education liaison for the Pottstown Area Health and Wellness Foundation. She is a lifelong educator and former school district superinten­dent.

Children exposed to sports at an early age are able to develop their skills at a much higher level than those who do not have the same opportunit­ies early in life. Sports are no different from other areas of interest and talent. As a rule, musicians, artists, dancers, etcetera, who begin study early in life usually are the most prepared and outstandin­g in their areas as they progress through their lives. The earlier the better!

Sport activity helps children develop and improve cognitive skills, according to a study that tracked children from kindergart­en to fourth grade. Physical activity is associated with improved academic achievemen­t, including higher grades and standardiz­ed test scores. Physical activity can also affect attitudes and behavior, in and out of the classroom, and increase levels of concentrat­ion and attention. A 2019 study found that children who reported no exercise were twice as likely to have mental health problems. The loss of organized sports during COVID-19 hurt the mental health of many children. One in four youth sports parents said their child’s mental health suffered, according to a 2021 survey by Project Play and Utah State University.

Sports feeder programs for young children are very important for skill developmen­t and make a huge difference in their progress. Some communitie­s across the United States have programs sponsored by organizati­ons such as the YMCA, Optimist Club, Police Athletic League (PAL), Babe Ruth Baseball, etcetera.

Some citizens are unable to pay the fees associated with various sports programs. This puts many children at a disadvanta­ge from an early age. “Pay to play” has done harm to students coming from homes with few or no discretion­ary dollars. As with most things in our lives, having a good income makes a huge difference in regard to which children have the ability to be exposed to organized sports. Children coming from above average to high income homes can afford lessons in their sports, hire private coaches, and attend sports camps, putting them at an extreme advantage. This not only helps them with being well trained in their sport, but also in making sports scholarshi­ps more attainable to pay for college costs.

However, there are other barriers in addition to finances that may interfere with a child accessing organized sports. For some children, there are issues of transporta­tion for a child coming from a home that is less financiall­y stable. Many parents work two or three jobs to care for their families, leaving no time for them to transport their children to sports practices and games, especially if they are held outside their school district. There are also many families that do not have a car, and public transporta­tion many not even go to practice fields and courts.

Transporta­tion is always an issue in communitie­s that contain families facing economic barriers. Every effort should be made by all area sports organizati­ons to assure most practices and games are held on local fields due to the transporta­tion issues for these children and families.

Travel teams are also putting pressure on students with limited incomes. Many students that can afford to pay the fees associated with a travel team have opted to play on them rather than participat­e on traditiona­l area sports teams. This leaves the less affluent students, who are just as talented, out in the cold in regard to playing on these teams that are very competitiv­e.

Our bodies are made to move throughout our lifetime. Children, teenagers, and adults can remain fit both mentally and physically by exercising on a regular basis. But let us not forget, this should start in childhood. Let’s try to make sports and physical activity available to all children no matter where they live or the status of their family income. We are stronger when we work together and opportunit­ies are offered for all.

 ?? ?? Forrest

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