The Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society program was launched on May 13 with a roundtable of more than three dozen high-level leaders addressing the topic of the sport activity of children, with a focus on the barriers that limit athletic participation. Participants included 11 Olympic medalists, among them speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno and track legend Edwin Moses.
“It’s not the most important thing for a child to be good in sports,” Ohno, the most decorated Olympian in Winter Sports history (eight medals, two gold) told the high-level group of sport and policy leaders. “But it’s important for children to be involved.”
Data shared at the meeting showed high drop-out rates among children in primary sports such as soccer, baseball and basketball, and low physical activity rates as they become teenagers. More than four of 10 African American girls of high school age do not get even one hour of exercise a week, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
“I think we have a national disaster on our hands which, over time, will affect the U.S. Olympic team,” said Scott Blackmun, CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee, in a moderated, live webcast conversation with ESPN correspondent and Sports & Society director Tom Farrey.
Other roundtable members included: Steve Keener, president and CEO of Little League International; Steve Stenersen, president and CEO of U.S. Lacrosse; Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Patrick McEnroe, general manager of player development for the U.S. Tennis Association; John Walsh, executive editor and executive vice president of ESPN; Nancy Hogshead-Makar, Olympic champion swimmer and Title IX legal expert; Mike Richter, former NHL goaltender; Craig Robinson, head coach, Oregon State University men’s basketball; and Shellie Pfohl, executive director of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, among others. For a full list of participants, click here.
The event took place at The Aspen Institute, where participants explored four topics:
Watch>> Defeating Childhood Obesity: What’s the Role of Sport Organizations?—The U.S. is both the world’s sports superpower and a nation with one of the most serious obesity problems. This discussion considered the contribution that sport organizations can make in getting more kids physically active.
Watch>> Virtual Secrets: What Youth Sports Can Learn From Video Games—What do kids want out of a sports experience? This session considered the lessons learned from the success of video games in creating a competition-friendly environment for kids—one with lots of action, lots of winning and losing, but no hovering adults.
Watch>> Against the Grain: Best Practices From the Front Lines—Highlighted were breakthrough strategies and scalable solutions that have helped sport providers add participants, lower the dropout rate, and protect the safety of children.
Watch>> Sport for All, Play for Life: Next Steps—Roundtable participants considered future directions, and explored models of sport development designed to serve the needs of communities and athletes of all ages and skill levels.
The inaugural roundtable of the Aspen Institute Sports & Society program launched an important dialogue about the sports activity of children, with a focus on addressing the barriers to widespread athletic participation. The one-day, invitation-only event featured more than three dozen leaders from the realms of sport, government, industry, philanthropy, academia, medicine and media.