How To Make America A Better Country For Kids

Attention progressives, reformers and political leaders! If you want to see some great sporting events, without all the inevitable chaos, costs and disruption, there is something you can do about it. Communities, like those in Boston, once had some of the best youth sports programs in the country. But they have been short changed the last 25 years by too many people who should know better. I think it's time we reversed that trend in America.

In many cities and towns, popular and well-attended programs like high school sports, neighborhood baseball, hockey, basketball and C.Y.O., are no longer operating like they once did. They are getting pushed out by highly promoted professional sporting events, commercialism and media ratings. There's no doubt that all the big sporting events, like the Super Bowl, Olympics, all-night gambling casinos and legalized neighborhood marijuana dispensaries, will be hugely profitable for the people involved, but they are not the people who politicians should be pandering to. They should be trying to bring back the glory days when athletics had a positive impact on the development and future of young boys and girls in America's cities and towns.

"Keep a kid in sports and you'll keep him out of courts," was once a popular slogan. But today, most of what we hear about is the multi-billion dollar sports events, astronomical player paydays and of course, the scandals. Professional sports teams have abandoned their commitment to the young people of America. Even area colleges have turned their backs on poor inner city kids. Seventy thousand dollars for student tuition and millions of dollars in salaries for college administrators? How does that help children from poor and working class families now, who may be potential college students in the future?

The other day at the South Boston Boys and Girls Club, a group of concerned area residents spent most of the afternoon teaching kids ages 8 to 16, the fundamentals of shooting a basketball. The same place where many of us learned the true meaning of sportsmanship and discipline as kids. Sports helped poor kids from Roxbury, Mission Hill, Charlestown, South Boston and every neighborhood in Boston, but unfortunately, we don't see that same level of interest in developing our once outstanding youth sports programs. And that trend has pervaded the country. Yes, programs like youth hockey, Boys and Girls Clubs, C.Y.O. and Little League are still determined to make a positive difference in the lives of young people today, but they don't receive the support they need and deserve. A good example of that commitment was the Pere Marquette Knights of Columbus Hoop Shoot Out Contest in South Boston the other day, which was a fun event. But the Knights and other youth sports programs have to do it on a shoestring. In my hometown, Boston, former Celtics players like Bill Sharman or Bob Cousy used to teach kids how to shoot a basketball. Outstanding Harvard and Boston College student -- athletes showed kids how to shoot a puck. These outstanding and well supervised youth programs of days past, helped make Boston and other cities, youth focused. There was no drugs, very little violence, or family instability. Kids were playing sports every day, not getting high or in trouble.

Let's get back to basics in America. These youth sports programs are what are important to the stability of our communities and our children's future. Let's make kids' sports exciting and cool again. It's time kids had an alternative to video games, digital entertainment, TV and the lure of dangerous activities.

How about creating a Youth Activities Commission in America? A commission that will focus on promoting young kids playing sports, rather than glorifying professional athletes.

Boston and communities all over this country have many committed and dedicated volunteers, coaches and sports mentors. Let's begin to give them the support they need to help our youth and make our neighborhoods become family friendly once again. Professional sports teams and the media are raking in billions of dollars, so let's have a little pay to play for our young people. How about a "one percent youth sports fund?" The money would go directly to community youth sports programs. Programs to help our kids turn out to be outstanding citizens with pride in their communities and confidence in themselves. The media can start now with a comprehensive, Public Service Ad campaign, just in time for the Super Bowl. If they bet on the success of making well-funded sports programs readily available to our young people, everyone would win and win big.

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

What Do You Miss About Your Children Now That They're Adults?