We just wrapped up our summer season following the 4,001 Burpee Challenge at Joe De Sena’s farm in Vermont and are leaning into the fall as we struggle with how to address the COVID-19 pandemic as a community and as a country. The trip to Vermont was a phenomenal way to end a chaotic summer (more on that trip in our next post)
Why isn’t more attention given to a greater pandemic predating the Coronavirus, eating at our society since the industrial revolution and accelerating into the 21st century with the information and technology revolution? It impacts everyone, ESPECIALLY OUR CHILDREN. It’s a pandemic of inactivity and unhealthy eating. It impacts ALL children, regardless of whether those kids grow up in an affluent environment or in poverty. If establishing a strong foundation for our children for them to build upon is a priority, we are failing. The statistics tell the story.
The CDC states childhood obesity rates have TRIPLED since the 1970’s. THREE of the SIX factors contributing to this explosion are simple solutions. But simple doesn’t mean easy. Issues affecting sleep, nutrition and movement (central tenets of THE GIVE TEAM PROGRAM) are key factors in the continued increase in obesity rates.
Our kids aren’t just challenged physically. Hospital admissions for suicidal issues have DOUBLED over the past decade. According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly 1 in 3 children aged 13-18 will experience an anxiety disorder.
On top of all that, everyone seems angry. We have a societal disconnect not seen since the 1960s, and instead of coming together to solve problems people vent by pounding on keyboards while hiding behind screens and screaming into pillows.
One channel for release and connection has been school sports, but even that is unattainable for most. Graduation class sizes in many metropolitan school districts are large, and participation in team sports has become increasingly competitive.
Why is that relevant? Jim West, a national expert in adolescent psychology, calls the ages between 15-25 the “Magic Decade.” It’s a period of time where many of the habits we develop in activity and thought are solidified. What better time to understand what it means to test your limitations, to find a place where self-doubt appears and understand how to push through it? What better time to develop a habit of leaning into discomfort understanding that’s how strength is developed?
With school districts around the country cancelling fall sports due to COVID-19 and eliminating a reliable source of discipline and structure outside of home, our kids are at even greater risk. So what do we do about it? I have an idea.
THE GIVE TEAM PROGRAM was designed to be effective for all kids, not just those in the Parramore neighborhood of Orlando. It’s a goal achievement and leadership program with a focus on PHYSICAL engagement (sleep, nutrition and movement) leaning on military-inspired leadership principles and concepts found in stoic philosophy. At its heart are workouts that challenge participants physically, and then mentally.
How would this work outside Orlando? There are thousands of strong coaches in every community coaching wrestling, football, baseball, soccer, etc. who know what it means to connect with a kid and provide a framework to inspire him or her. Conversely, there are schools, youth groups and teams that are natural feeders for an obstacle course racing team. Align strong coaches with kids seeking strength and an opportunity to grow through obstacle course racing and you have the foundation for growth that aligns with varsity sports programs with an opportunity for anyone to participate who is willing to work hard. After all, the more you give, the more you receive.
The approach? Start small with an entrepreneurial team of coaches. Get a couple quality coaches willing to dive in and roll with the punches. Set an achievable goal. Establish a realistic plan. Then it’s all about execution.
Last fall a mom reached out to me. She was raising her younger relative after he was displaced from Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria. He loves basketball but his entire high school class has over 500 kids, meaning dozens of kids would be trying out for just a few slots. On top of that, his school has a very good basketball team with kids who have played together for years. “Once a kid turns 12, there aren’t many options,” she told me. He and his cousin started working out with The Give Team before the pandemic hit. It was hard at first. Then an amazing thing happened. They LIT UP when challenged. It wasn’t easy. But we connected and all three of us were inspired. Inspiration is contagious, and positive energy will change the world.
So who’s in?
Brad Mason is head coach of The Give Team, and a firm believer that no matter how little you think you have, you ALWAYS have something to give. So give more. Give more smiles, more compliments, more focus, and more effort.