Kids Know Best

Count on the hot days of later summer to leave me spending time in front of the tube, watching whatever can be found on our five local stations. (We don't have cable.) Happily, in mid-August, I found myself watching Game 7 of the Little League World Series—a home-run-filled game in which the West team beat the Mid-Atlantic team 16 to 6. A week later, I found myself enjoying the World Series Title Game, in which the Southeast team from Warner Robins, Ga., beat the Southwest team from Lubbock, Texas, in front of nearly 25,000 fans at Howard J. Lamade Stadium in South Williamsport, Pa.

Little League Baseball and Softball is the largest organized youth sports program in the world, with 2.7 million participants in all five states and nearly 75 other countries. That's a lot of kids getting involved in some healthy, character-building activity. And I have to say that watching these kids play was far more fun for me than watching the pro World Series—something I haven't done since my dear Cubs barely missed their chance to make it there in 2003. (As I write this, the final contenders for the playoffs have not been determined yet, though the Cubs are ranked first in the Central Division.)

Who wouldn't enjoy watching these kids more? Most of them are still young enough not to be in it to win it (though that's always important to any ballplayer, regardless of age), but to have fun.

In fact, that's exactly what Mickey Lay, who managed the Warner Robins team to the 2007 Little League Baseball World Series championship, said about his team. "We went into every game the same as game one … to have fun," he said. "If we hit the ball, run the bases and make outs, everything will work out in our favor."

It all helps to highlight the importance of youth sports—what sports and other recreation activities can do for younger kids. It's not about money or even glory. It's about fun, good health, social connection, learning good sportsmanship and teamwork, better grades—all skills that will continue to pay off throughout these kids' lives.

Getting more kids involved in sports and recreation activities is likely part of your mission, and U.S. Representative Mike McIntyre (D-NC), founder and chairman of the Congressional Youth Sports Caucus, is trying to help.

Back in July, Congressman McIntyre released the Youth Sports Legislative Package, a collection of measures designed to improve access to sports and recreation for kids and their families. McIntyre called it "the beginning of a better future for youth sports and recreation."

On his Web site, McIntyre explains that "Involvement in youth sports has consistently proven to provide innumerable benefits to participants, contributing to character development, physical fitness and a healthier overall lifestyle."

But unfortunately, he adds that more than 70 percent of kids quit taking part in organized sports by the time they reach their teenage years, while they spend an average of six hours daily in front of a screen.

The package is made up of seven bills:

  • H.R. 442, Youth Sports Week Resolution, which would establish the fourth week of July as National Youth Sports Week.
  • H.R. 2045, the Play Every Day Act, which is designed to enable communities to overcome barriers that keep kids from playing each day.
  • H.R. 901, the High School Athletics Accountability Act of 2007, which makes public the information about how many male and female students are involved in school athletic programs, and the expenditures made on each team.
  • H.R. 245, the Personal Health Investment Today Act of 2007, which amends the tax code to allow certain payments for exercise equipment and physical fitness programs to be counted as payments for medical care.
  • $100 million toward the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
  • $73 million for the Carol White Physical Education Program, which provides grants to help initiate, expand and improve physical education for K-12 students.
  • $18 million for the National Youth Sports Program, which provides kids with academic instruction, skills training and sports activities.

"Each measure recommended in this legislative package champions a mutual goal of improving the opportunities for youth sports and recreation participation around the country," McIntyre explained. "It represents a renewed commitment to youth and families and their health and well-being."

It's nice to see our representatives up to something so positive. They also often get mired in the scandal that sweeps pro sports, and can join all of us to take a lesson from those Little Leaguers in teamwork and sportsmanship.

And, by the way, that team from Warner Robins, Ga., eventually went on to win the whole thing, 3 to 2, against Japan.

Way to go, kids!

Cheers!

Emily Tipping
Editor



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