Picking Up the Slack
What are the things that matter most, in terms of sustaining a cohesive culture and an engaged community? How do we foster connections between people of different—or even similar—backgrounds, ages, genders, races, economic strata, etc., in an age of smartphones and technological saturation? Do we believe any of this matters?
These questions are on my mind as I sit here and finish up this issue. I've just passed my 12th anniversary of working here for Recreation Management, and my bags are packed for Indianapolis and the NRPA (National Recreation and Park Association) Conference, which has been one of my favorite events of the year since I first attended in Seattle, in 2006. It never fails to inspire.
By the time this issue hits your desk, I'll be back home with, I have no doubt, a renewed sense of why these questions matter, and how parks and recreation professionals, at least, are answering some of them.
In fact, professionals working in parks and recreation, sports and fitness are uniquely placed to address many of the problems we have, in terms of community health, cultural cohesiveness, education, connectedness, sustainable living, and so much more.
When other agencies and leaders drop the ball—on climate change, on fostering a love of the arts, on active living, on diversity and inclusion—or even when they just try to pass the buck, leaders in our industry almost always seem to be among the first to step up. To pick up the slack. To take the ball and run with it.
Flipping through this issue, I can point to a number of ways in which local communities and other organizations are doing just that. For example, in the world of grounds management and maintenance, professionals have long been focused on ways to make their practices more earth-friendly. You can find out more about that on page 26. And on page 32, we take a look at some successful programs that bring the arts—both completed works of art to enjoy as well as arts-related programming—to their facilities and communities. And those are just two obvious examples.
More broadly speaking, no matter which part of our audience you represent, you likely are carrying the ball, though you might not realize it. Are you heading up a sports facility? You're getting folks active and connected through team sports! You run a senior center? You are connecting older community members to opportunities to improve their social and physical health. You're in charge of the aquatics program? You're helping reach people with swim lessons, healthy activity and more.
In so many ways, this industry reaches out to the communities it serves to make things better. To improve the health of humans and the environment in which they live. To help us connect and grow as people. To provide opportunities to broaden our horizons.