WHAT CAN WE DO

Research

Sports may be thought of as a great equalizer in securing an education for children after high school. In an article by Ben Hinshaw, Jeffrey O. Sacha, postdoctoral fellow in Sociology at the University of California, Davis, stated, “‘Privilege and marginalization are more often than not reflected in high school sports…which raises important doubts about the ability for sports participation to undermine structural educational inequality.’”

Throughout my research on high school sports and inequality among youth, I have found an overwhelming amount of data suggesting there are inequalities in access to high school sports based on school composition, and that the implications for individual athletic participation are discouraging in terms of prospects for low income and minority students. In an article by James Tompsett titled “Inequalities in Sport Access and Participation Among American High Schools,” Tompsett found, “lower class students are less likely to participate in sports than their advantaged peers, regardless of the composition of the school” (p. 27).

When reading this article, as a Sociology major hoping to work in the Social Work field after I graduate from Bridgewater, I found this fact to be crucial to actualizing the life chances for minority and low-income youth. With the emergence of travel and club sports, lower income youth who already cannot afford the pay to play fee at their school are even further disadvantaged. This is a compounding issue because lower income families with students may struggle to afford basic necessities like nourishing food as well as team fees and equipment. Failing to perform to a level that may potentiate a college scholarship, students may also fail to present a more impressive college resume overall, and lack many of the beneficial skills team sports at the high school level have to offer, as well as the self-esteem and commitment to their academic institution to prove themselves to their fullest extent.

According to Tompsett, “Understanding variation in sport access could be helpful to policy makers and educators who hope to address post-secondary stratification based on race and class status” (p.13). In an article by Bob Cook titled “America’s Income Inequality Tensions Reflected at Youth Sporting Events,” Tom Ferrey described this as the “‘gentrification’ of sports.” Furthermore, Ferrey stated, “‘fewer than 1 in 5 students playing Division 1 hoops, and 1 in 7 in all Division 1 sports, come from families in which neither parents went to college. And their numbers are declining.’” In other words, “money is skewing who plays” according to Cook.

Considering this issue further, I speculated what other impacts the “gentrification” of high school sports would have. Having less contact with diverse individuals in a team sports setting, per Ferrey’s analysis, equals missed opportunities for students of different backgrounds to collaborate. Beyond college and in the professional world, having discussions and working together productively with others is something we master earlier. Additionally, Linda Flanagan’s “What’s Lost When Only Rich Kids Play Sports” details similar consequences of declining participation in sports amongst youth.

As Flanagan found, higher graduation rates, better test scores and grades, higher college attendance rates, happier families, better physical and emotional health, less drug and alcohol use in high school, and an overall higher quality of life were major benefits with sports participation. Broadly, “the advantages that come with it [sports participation] can serve as an inoculation against some of life’s unhappier outcomes,” Flanagan stated. Flanagan’s article also noted, “Compared to their peers whose families make more than $100,000, children ages 6 through 12 whose family income is under $25,000 are nearly three times as likely to be “inactive”—meaning they played no sport during the year—and half as likely to play on a team sport even for one day.” As Flanagan stated referencing the $15.3 billion kids’ sports industry, it is unclear whether the “loose coalition of businesses, community organizations, and nonprofits that are working to ensure all children have access to sports have the resources or clout to make it happen.”

Given all of this information, our team believes implementing our business model will bolster community support while bringing in funds to facilitate increased youth sports participation among low income youth. We believe it is time that, paired with businesses and the community’s consumers, youth sports become a more important investment. Investing in expanding accessibility to our community’s high school sports participation will considerably increase graduation rates, test scores, college attendance rates, and overall quality of life among these students.

I grew up with a rather distorted idea of what the world was simply because of the environment I grew up in. Although I was raised in Accra, Ghana located in West Africa; the idealized stigma that has spread across the globe pertaining to Africa’s poverty and unstable economy did not quite apply to me. In a country where children walked miles carrying buckets to get water, I was fortune enough to have a water system in my home. In the same country where children died daily from numerous diseases as a result of being unable to afford proper health care, I was fortunate enough to receive health checkups on an annual basis. In the same country where many parents struggled to provide food for their children, I was fortunate enough to have an abundance to the point where I ignorantly wasted food at times. Even with these “luxuries” that technically put me in a high social hierarchy than many children in my age group, I was eager to be friends with everyone. This eagerness to understand and explore the depths of the people around me is what lead me to realize the benefits of luxuries and privileges was provided simply due to the status and hard work of my parents.
In a Ghana, there was no middle class. One was either abundantly wealthy or in constant stress of figuring out where the next meal or pay check was coming from. I was fortunate to have a mother and father who had extensive educational backgrounds by earning their advanced degrees. They earned positions in companies that allowed them to assume high paying and powerful roles. I did not chose the life style I was raised in but I reaped the benefits of it. As a result of my parent’s ability to provide the necessary resources for me, I always remained one step ahead many of my colleagues. These resources came in the form of getting tutors for courses I did not understand, prepping for a course prior to taking it, having easy access to supplies such as notebook, textbook, pens, pencils etc. and furthermore, having the funds to continue paying school fees. For many of my friends, they lacked the necessary resources. However, even at such a young age I wanted to be of assistance to them. For some of my friends, it was simply giving them an extra pencil because they didn’t have one, to nagging my parents in hopes that they would assist a friend who could no longer pay for their school fees. I also invited friends to my house on a consistent basis because I knew at my resident, there would be enough food for everyone. I wanted others to gain the necessary resources to also succeed. I just had a subliminal instinct to be help.
                    In 2007, our family immigrated to the US. Although I didn’t have the in abundance resources as I had once had, being from a middle class family, with a mom and dad who worked in large corporation making a steady income allowed me to have the necessary resources to pursue my education, career and life. Even in a country known of as possessing the most resources to assist in the pursuit of success, the same issues of youth being under resourced was present. Through my years in high school, I had learned that not my all my friends grew up in the environment that I did. Some of them came from neighborhoods ridden with violence and crime, single parent homes, etc., where the resources to propel these individuals seemed to always be lacking. Some of my own colleagues turned to violence, crime, drug abuse etc. Being an observer to some of these situations, my question was always who is making the effort to assist these young individuals considering that we are the future of this nation. It saddened me to see my friends falling behind as I continued to progress. I simply wanted them to also have the same opportunities I did. I took the time to learn about organizations such as the boys and girls club and the urban alliance which although not perfect, made great strides to assist the youth in under resourced neighborhoods and areas.
Given all that information, my reason for joining the team was because it was an answer or alternative solution to a question I have always had growing up when I had friends who failed, simply due to the lack of resources. Growing up in an environment where I had the necessary resources to help me further my desire help others who were less fortunate. My focus in this project is to understand the strengths and weakness of some of the nonprofit organizations that are implementing strategies to provide resources for lower income areas. By understanding the strengths and weakness of the nonprofit organization, we can gain deeper insight to develop our solution. This will help improve the overall quality of life for youth development in under resourced areas.