National Recreation and Park Association Forecasts Top Trends in Parks and Recreation for 2018

As we are now fully into 2018 and with spring and summer just around the corner, it may be a good idea to consider some of the current trends in recreation and park culture and activity observed and projected for this coming year. The National Recreation and Park Association, the main organization body in our field of parks and recreation administration, recently published an article on its website outlining trends for the 2018 year. The following are some of the highlights from that article:

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photo credit: http://www.centralpark.com

Parks Everywhere! An increasing number of people living in cities and urban areas has created a shift in focus to development of outdoor green spaces and city parks. Parks continue to emerge in a variety of unconventional spaces, including: old railway corridors, empty city lots, and even in unused underground spaces (e.g. New York’s “Lowline” park in a trolley terminal). It is expected that 2018 will continue to see park development and an increase in unused space transformed into community parks.

The Opioid Epidemic. In 2017, overdoses outnumbered murders by a ratio of 4-1, a number higher than ever before (The Philadelphia Inquirer, January 23, 2018). With what seems to be an out-of-control downward spiral of opioid use, parks may be able to assist. Cities and metro areas have begun to use parks and public spaces to combat this growing concern in a variety of ways. Parks and recreation departments have begun to develop programming focused on reducing the use and dependency on these drugs and getting people struggling with an opioid addiction the help that they desperately need. This linked article discusses the role that parks play in combating this epidemic.

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Photo Credit: Atlanta Beltline

Partners in Evidence-Based Health Delivery: With an increase in research on health and wellness programs and more information on what works and what does not in terms of health outcomes, parks and recreation programs are expected to begin to implement these delivery curricula into their regular programming. It is expected that parksand recreation departments will continue to partner with healthcare agencies across the country as a means of health promotion. More on this topic can be found here. http://www.nrpa.org/parks-recreation-magazine/2014/november/research-update-evidence-based-programs-and-practice/

Large Donations: Wealthy individuals, organizations and foundations continue to recognize the importance of parks and green space and are putting their money into these areas in masses. Millions of dollars have been gifted to parks and recreation departments such as, Central Park Conservancy ($100 million), River Parks Authority in Tulsa, OK ($350 million), Chicago Park district ($12 million), and many more (www.nrpa.org Top Trends in Parks and Recreation, February 6, 2018). It is expected that these large donations will continue in 2018.

Focus on Park Sustainability: As a proponent of green space, parks have a natural connection with sustainable and environmentally healthful behaviors. It is expected that in 2018, there will be an increased focus on parks commitment to sustainable energy and land usage and will act as a model for the public on what responsible energy consumption looks like. The sustainability survey report from the NRPA provides a better understanding of the current sustainability efforts of Parks and Recreation departments.

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Economic Development depends on Parks: It is clear that economic development and quality parks and recreation opportunities go hand-in-hand. As companies look to develop operations bases, one of the reasons for commitment to a specific city is the quality and quantity of available green space for employees and their families. Parks and green space, as well as access to bike and walking paths, contribute to thriving metropolises, a characteristic that organizations desire for headquarters and business operations.

Follow this link for a full list of the projected 2018 parks and recreation trends.

Resources:

Sustainability Survey Report: https://www.nrpa.org/contentassets/f768428a39aa4035ae55b2aaff372617/sustainability-survey-report.pdf

Parks Combatting the Opioid Epidemic: https://www.nrpa.org/parks-recreation-magazine/2017/june/confronting-the-opioid-outbreak-in-our-parks/

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Play Fair, Play IX

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For the last thirty-two years, a national initiative called the National Girls & Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) has worked to encourage, bolster support and celebrate the achievements of the millions of girls and women who participate in organized sports in the United States. NGWSD also works to further expand sport opportunities for women and girls in the future. For 2018, the theme is “Play Fair, Play IX”. According to the U.S. Department of Education, “Title IX protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive Federal financial funding” (www.ed.gov). This year NGWSD hopes to further instill and implement the basis of Title IX by dedicating a day(s) to the recognition of the accomplishments of women and girls in sport. The NGWSD website states:

 

healthy-active-kids-widget“For more than three decades, the NGWSD has empowered women and girls to get moving, embrace physical activity and push past their limits. The courage, confidence and character gained through sports participation are the very tools girls need to become the strong leaders of tomorrow” (ngwsd.org).

Photo credit: NESTLE Corp.

The website hosts a plethora of “stories” sharing information on how participation in sports and athletics have positively affected the lives of a variety of girls and women athletes, such as: Meghan Duggan, an Olympic ice hockey silver medalist; Scout Bassett, a track and field paraolympian; and Sloane Stephens, a U.S. Open tennis champion and founder of the Sloane Stephens Foundation.

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Photo credit: Mountain Bike for Her

While the specific day affiliated with the NGWSD for 2018 was February 7th, there are still events occurring across the country focused on further enhancing the dialogue and encouraging women young and old towards (increased?) participation in sports. In order to find events near you or to plan an event affiliated with the NGWSD organization, visit the website http://ngwsd.org/events/. To follow NGWSD on social media or to share photos of your events on social media platforms, use #NGWSD.

Farm to School Act of 2017

On September 6, 2017, members of Congress introduced the Farm to School Act of 2017. This bill has received bipartisan support, and it expands the current US Department of Agriculture’s Farm to School Grant Program by increasing funding from $5 million to $15 million annually. During the first five years the program received over $120 million in requests from 1,600 applicants. The program was able to provide grants totaling $25 million to 365 applicants in those years, however, that only satisfies one fifth of total requests. Clearly, there is a high demand for this type of program. But, what does this money support? The following provides an outline and some resources that further explain the proposed program.

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Farm to school is a common sense approach to child nutrition that empowers children and their families to make informed food choices while strengthening the local economy and contributing to vibrant communities. (www.farmtoschool.org)

 

Photo Credit: farmtoschool.org

The program is flexible and often appears differently depending on the needs of the specific community, however, there are Three Core Elements of the program that remain consistent.

Procurement: The program provides funding for local food purchase and service in cafeterias and lunchrooms. This provides not only healthy food options for students but also supports local farmers, ranchers, and fishers. In 2013-2014, schools spent $789 million on local food. The Farm to School Act notes that of every dollar spent on this food, $1.60 goes back into local economies. This suggests that schools generated over $1.2 billion into local economies for food alone during those years. In addition, a goal is to reduce the obesity rate and prevalence of childhood Type II Diabetes by increasing the amount of healthy fruits and vegetables served to children.

Education: As a part of the program, organizations incorporate food, agriculture, and health and nutrition programming into their educational curricula.

School Gardens: The program supports school gardens which provide students with hands-on learning through planting, gardening, harvesting, and food preparation. In 2013-2014, an estimated 23.6 million students engaged in a Farm to School program. Here is an Example of a farm to school program in Michigan.

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Photo Credit: farmtoschool.org

More information can be found at the Farm to School Website, which provides individuals and organizations with ideas, resources, and partners to aid in the development and with the ultimate goal of program success.

There is also funding available! Here are some examples of opportunities associated with this program.

Small Grants for plants and seeds ($200-$1,000)

GreenWorks Grants for Service learning projects ($1,000-$2,000)

National Institute of Food and Agriculture Grants ($945,400 available)

 

National Environmental Education Foundation Releases Teen Survey Partner Toolkit

Youth, and adults, in today’s culture are spending an increasingly less amount of time outdoors and more time indoors behind a screen. According to the Nation Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) the average high school student spends one hour outside each day, typically taking part in activities such as waiting for the bus or walking between classrooms. Outdoor experience has proven positive impacts on health and happiness. In one of the seminal studies on the topic of human health and the natural environment, Roger Ulrich (1984) found in his “view through a window” study that patients with a hospital room with a view of nature (i.e. trees) recovered from a minor surgery faster and were also observed to be happier and less combative with their care providers.  A more recent article found that outdoor experiences reduce the generation of negative emotions that we commonly associate as anger, sadness, frustration, or depressed moods, compared to similar individuals participating in a built or indoor environment (Bower, et. al., 2010)

During this time of the year here in the Midwest, it can be challenging to find the motivation to get outside, however, it is important to take what the research suggests to heart and make spending time outside a priority.Teens and the Environment

According to the NEEF 80% of adolescents prefer to spend time indoors, however, 92% understand that time spent outdoors helps make them healthier, and 88% recognize that time spent outdoors makes them happier. There appears to be a disconnect somewhere between this understanding and putting this knowledge into practice. The NEEF survey found that adolescents are very passionate and advocate for social causes such as “animal abuse and LGBTQ issues,” but less so about environmental issues. I would posit that this stems from the lack of experience. An individual is less likely to advocate for something with which one has had little experience, this is where the NRF and its grantee organizations step into play. The survey found that teachers, educators and leaders are the most trusted sources of outdoor and environmental education for adolescents, suggesting that these individuals, organizations and programs have the capacity of greatly influencing recreation tendencies towards participation and overall understanding of the outdoors.

NEEF offers a variety of resources that include facts related to this topic, social media post templates and suggestions, and program recommendations on their website as well as an overview to the survey here. 

 

2017 Crawford Prize Recipient

The National Recreation Foundation proudly presents Susan Teegen as this year’s Crawford Prize Recipient. Since 2003, the Crawford Prize recognizes a living person who has dedicated him or herself to enhancing recreation opportunities for youth. Each year, the Prize is awarded to an individual, whether professional or volunteer, who has made an extraordinary contribution in advancing recreation programs for at-risk youth. Susan truly embodies what the NRF looks for in a Crawford Prize recipient as a champion, supporter and influential educator for the youths she serves.

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Pictured: Susan Teegen. Image courtesy of ArtWell

Susan has made empowering youth her life’s work. In addition to educating her work includes, counseling, mentoring, and advocating for social justice in response to issues such as poverty and racism. Through this work she has witnessed youth flourish when they were given opportunities to learn, explore and create. Susan’s graduate work at Princeton Theological Seminary focused on the intersection of art, healing and transformation. She completed her studies at the University of the Arts in painting and printmaking. Her experience working with youth and her understanding on the transformative power of art, culminated into an idea for a program.

In 2001, Susan founded ArtWell. Artwell’s mission is to support young people and their communities through arts education and creative reflection to discover strengths, face challenges and awaken dreams. Since it’s inception Artwell has partnered with over 400 private, public and charter schools, as well as, faith-based and community organizations to connect with over 35,000 youth in the greater Philadelphia area. Artwell’s art education programs utilize art as a tool for deep reflection, enhancing communication and academic achievement. ArtWell transforms the lives of young people facing discrimination, poverty, violence and everyday challenges. Susan has proved her proficiency in developing partnerships and encouraging community support through connections with local artists, schools,educators and education systems to engage students and their communities.

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Pictured: Left to right. Susan Teegen, Pina Templeton (NRF Trustee), and Bob Stuart (NRF President)

The National Recreation Foundation is honored to present this award to a very deserving recipient. Join us in congratulating our 2017 Crawford Prize winner, Susan Teegen.

NYC Organization Works to Address Lack of Diversity in the Outdoors

One of my favorite parts of the trend of social media is that I get introduced to all sorts of new and innovative programs. I take special note of those that fall within our scope at the NRF and feel that is important to share them. Programs are able to use the social media platform to share program information, attract participants, and garner support both in terms of public support and financial assistance. As many of you know I am an avid rock climber. I support and follow several rock climbing specific organizations on Facebook and Instagram, such as, the American Alpine Club, the Access Fund, and the American Mountain Guides Association. Several months ago the American Alpine Club posted about Brothers of Climbing (BOC), an organization based out of New York City.

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Founded by Makhail Martin, BOC is dedicated to making outdoor recreation, and specifically rock climbing, accessible to populations that may never have been thought of rock climbing as a viable recreational activity. Martin, who grew up in Queens New York, comments on the perception of climbing and the outdoors in which he grew up, “Out here (Queens) there’s no rock climbing gyms, there’s no mountains… There’s nothing out here like that, my idea of the outdoors is the backyard, you know?”
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Photo Credit: REI

BOC is working to ensure that minority populations not only have an opportunity to experience the outdoors but also provides a community of support and familiar faces that encourage continued participation. One BOC member mentioned growing up being told, “black people don’t go outside and that it was a dangerous place.” As a result many minority youth do not have outdoor experiences while growing up. As one BOC member says, “It just goes back to not being exposed to the outdoors, and the problem is that we are telling ourselves that we can’t do it and then on the other end there is no one telling us that we can do it, so it’s a problem on both sides of the coin, and we have to attack it from both sides.” Martin states, “BOC’s mission is to increase involvement of minorities in the outdoors, right now we’re starting with climbing but I want to see more of us participating in outdoor activities, because if more of us where out there it would just be more of a common thing.” BOC has grown from just a few members to thirty or forty members regularly attending organization events, programs and trips.

While this organization is not youth specific and works more with younger adults, programs like BOC provide useful tips and techniques on how to develop influential programs that cultivate change within participants and the communities in which they serve. Attached are two short videos that provide more information and a deeper look into the work that BOC is doing.

Solo No More

REI Presents: Brothers of Climbing

 

The Importance of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Outdoor Recreation, Conservation and Environmentalism

A recent post on the Blue Sky Founders Forum addresses the topic of diversity, equity and inclusion, what Blue Sky refers to as DEI, specifically in the areas of Outdoor Recreation, Conservation, and Environmental Advocacy. This is an interesting topic within these spaces, for many of us we do not immediately think of DEI when evaluating the effectiveness or success of an organization, department, or program. How does increasing DEI in these areas help? As long as the organization or program is achieving their goals within the realm of Outdoor Recreation, Conservation and Environmental they are successful, right? The following from Blue Sky shares 11 Lessons Learned about how working towards DEI is an important addition to achieving organizational mission, vision and values.

First, it is important to define several of these terms. Blue Sky defines Equity and Inclusion this way:

Equity – “an approach to ensuring all people have equal access to a resource.”

Inclusion – “Amplifying, valuing, and celebrating those identities, voices, values, and styles have been marginalized.”

The following are excerpts from “11 Lessons We’ve Learned as Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity Consultants in the Outdoor, Conservation, and Environmental Sector” written by Ava Holliday and Aparna Rajagopal-Durbin.

  1. “Don’t conflate diversity with race. People tend to use “diversity” as code for “race” and “diverse” as code for “people of color,” perhaps because the word “diversity” is more comfortable. But diversity represents all facets of our identity—not only race—based on which we experience barriers to resources and opportunities.”
  2. Approach DEI work intersectionally. Organizations also silo race-related efforts off from other efforts such as gender equity and anti-harassment efforts, the creation of safe spaces for LGBTQ constituents, indigenous rights advocacy, or physically accessibility initiatives. The reality is that our identities are not siloed because we walk through the world at the intersection of multiple identities, including race, ethnicity, indigeneity, nationality, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, ability, class, and more. More importantly, intersectionality cultivates a mindset of abundance rather than scarcity (where initiatives compete with each other for the same budget dollars).
  3. Go beyond numbers in measuring success. Organizations usually rely on race and gender diversity metrics to measure success. But focusing only on racial composition and creating a visually colorful workforce is not sustainable unless organizations are also paying attention to retention and fostering inclusive work cultures.
  4. Focus on equity rather than inclusion or diversity. Leading with equity—an approach to ensuring everyone has equal access to opportunities and resources—is the best way to create lasting change. Solely focusing on diversity and inclusion efforts does not necessarily require an interrogation of history and power dynamics, and therefore often falls flat.
  5. DEI work should be external and internal. DEI work isn’t just about outreach to grassroots organizations or recruiting at, for example, historically black colleges. These are just two externally facing efforts that belong to a much longer list. To create truly sustainable DEI efforts, internal strategies such as implicit bias training, inclusive benefits, mitigation of bias in evaluations and promotions, and more, should be equally prioritized.
  6. External work should be mutualistic. Many organizations invite grassroots organizations that work with (for example) communities of color to tell them how to become inclusive and culturally relevant. But often these relationships are parasitic rather than mutualistic. Borrowing the analogy of an understandably frustrated colleague, grassroots groups are not “insulin pumps” prepared to inject people of color into the environmental movement. To truly engage with (not merely “serve”) communities, simply ask prospective partners how you can support them.
  7. Invite all stakeholders to the table. You can’t say you’re working with specific communities if you’re doing so within a structure that does not invite their input or collaboration. Try to identify everyone who will be impacted by your project and invite them to engage in a meaningful way.
  8. Expand beyond the traditional framework of environmentalism. Environmentalism was born out of a particular time by a particular group of people (i.e. the usual suspects, such as John Muir, Teddy Roosevelt, Henry David Thoreau, Edward Abbey, and Aldo Leopold). The dominant narrative about environmental history has silenced the voices, buried the stories, and denied the experiences of many communities, including indigenous people, women, and people of color…The reality is that people have myriad connections to nature and ways of protecting land, all of which should be folded into the environmental movement if we are to be relevant to more people.
  9. Examine your implicit biases. Organizations cannot effectively tackle the biases that manifest in their practices, policies, protocols, and procedures without leaders and staff first looking in the mirror and examining their own individual biases. One way to do this is by taking the Implicit Association Test (IAT), which has become a common way to measure the biases we have with different identities. To grapple with implicit bias, we urge our partners to expose themselves to different perspectives and voices, attend workshops on implicit bias, and continue to engage in difficult conversations.
  10. Articulate your “why” and build a plan. DEI work can be lackluster and subject to fits and starts unless organizations are able to clearly articulate why DEI is important to their mission and build holistic plans addressing all of the ways they will add a DEI lens to their ongoing work. The lack of a clear plan can create pitfalls when, for example, a low budget year comes around and DEI goes on the chopping block because it’s not in a formalized initiative, or when you engage in dialogue with resistant constituents who insist DEI is “mission creep.”
  11. Meet people where they are. There are and will always be people who are either resistant or relatively new to the concepts surrounding DEI. And there are and will always be people who are wondering why we are still having the same conversation about sexism and racism 20-odd years later. Meeting people where they are helps navigate both resistance and DEI fatigue. This means using accessible language (such as implicit bias), celebrating small wins to help people feel successful, consistently soliciting feedback, and providing concrete checklists to help the work feel tangible.”

To read the whole post visit Blue Sky’s Blog Here. 

Forest Bathing: Reconnecting with Nature

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Shinrin-Yoku or “forest bathing” originated in Japan as a way for individuals to reconnect with the natural world. Forest bathing has quickly expanded around the world due to the positive mental and physical health outcomes associated with the practice. The name may suggest that this practice involves swimming or washing in the forest, however, it has very little to do with hygiene. Rather, the term suggests a sort of cleanse from the stressors and responsibilities of everyday life by taking some time to be alone and quite in nature. Breathing in the sights and sounds of the surrounding natural environment.

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“Cross between a hike and a meditation class.” An NPR journalist suggests that a forest bathing experience is like a “Cross between a hike and a meditation class, where the aim is to slow down and immerse yourself in the forest.”

Studies on forest bathing participants found that individuals who had spend time in nature had lower hostility scores and lower depression rates than those who had not spent any time in nature on a specific day. Individuals also had higher vitality scores or as the study suggests, were more lively.

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The research on forest bathing continues to find both mental and physical health benefits associated with spending time outside and bolsters support for nature prescription programs, including the National Park Service’s Park Prescription Program and the ParkRx Program. These initiatives look to encourage doctors to prescribe time outdoors as a valid “medication” for many health issues including, depression, obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Listen to the full NPR radio story Here.

The World’s First Fully Accessible Water Park Opened This Summer in San Antonio

The National Recreation Foundation looks to enhance the quality of life of economically, physically or mentally disadvantaged youth, those we often describe as being “at-risk”, through investing in recreation programs focused on these populations. Often our concentration and efforts are directed towards the economically disadvantaged group. The foundation is in a position to provide funding to different organizations, funding support is a logical way to have an impact on financially disadvantaged youth. However, individuals with physical and mental disabilities or impairments are often some of the most marginalized in our communities and are often times overlooked. In 2016, 7.2% of the roughly 46 million children aged 6-17 had a disability. While this doesn’t initially sound like a large percentage, 3,362,400 children seems significant. Recreation opportunities for these populations have been historically few and far between and if  offered can be fairly expensive for the participant and their families.

The Gordon Hartman Family Foundation in San Antonio, Texas is actively working to change that and in the process offer some new ideas for how to program for these populations. Gordon and Maggie Hartman, opened Morgan’s Wonderland in 2010. This park is named after their daughter, Morgan, who lives with physical and cognitive impairments. This theme park, which cost $34 million to construct, contains rides, playgrounds, and gardens all of which are completely accessible for individuals with disabilities to enjoy.MW_Official_logo

Gordon Hartman says, “Morgan’s Wonderland is just like any other theme park except for the added benefit of a culture and environment that assures 100 percent enjoyment by everyone who enters.  Unfortunately, countless children and adults with special needs do not have access to facilities that can help them fully enjoy outdoor recreation.  We truly believe Morgan’s Wonderland is beginning to change that.”

Morgan's Wonderland

The changes continue this summer with the introduction a new waterpark, called Morgan’s Inspiration Island. The park contains several splash pad areas with different components and themes, a river boat ride, and other water features. Every feature in the park is completely accessible, even for those who require the assistance of a wheel chair. The park offers specially designed wheelchairs that participants may use during their time in the park so as not to cause costly damages to personal devices.

Morgans Wonderland

The best part of this park is that admission is free for those with special needs. Take some time to look through the photos on the park’s website as well as in this news release. The looks on these children’s faces speak for themselves. What an incredible organization doing great things for a deserving population.

Coaching Female Athletes

This article was first published in Athletic Management Magazine in January of 2016 and highlights the Young Adult Abuse Prevention Program (YAAPP) organized  through Family Crisis Services based in Portland, ME which the NRF has previously supported. This article provides thought provoking insights on how to positively coach, mentor and develop young female athletes to be not only successful on the sports field but also to be strong and confident young women in other aspects of life. Information on this topic proves to to be important with increasing self-confidence and social-comparison issues among youth, stemming from the media and other social interaction. While it is a hope that home may be a safe place for young people, a fact is that sometimes it is not. As a programmers it is important to make sure that our programs offer safe and non-toxic environments for youth to be themselves, build confidence, and have positive interactions with others.

By Todd Livingston

“Todd Livingston is the 6-12 Athletic Administrator for the South Portland School Department in South Portland, ME.  He is in his 13th year as an athletic administrator after teaching physical education/health and coaching several sports for 11 years.”

“South Portland High School has a longstanding relationship with the organization Young Adult Abuse Prevention Program (YAAPP) and the many programs they offer that enable youth to make decisions within their relationships that are safe, healthy and informed.  In the fall of 2012 YAAPP staffer Carlin Whitehouse pitched the program “Coaching Boys Into Men” (CBIM) to the administrative team at South Portland High School.  Upon administrative approval to implement the program, it was presented to the varsity football, boys’ soccer, baseball and boys’ basketball coaches.  During the 2012-13 season, varsity boys’ basketball coach Phil Conley fully embraced serving as the pilot program for implementing “Coaching Boys Into Men” at South Portland High School.  The success of using the program with his team played a key role in developing the team chemistry that led the Red Riots to a birth in the state championship game.

In February 2013 there was an article published in the Portland Press Herald (http://www.pressherald.com/2013/02/27/new-playbook-leads-team-to-hidden-strengths_2013-02-27/) written by columnist Bill Nemitz highlighting the success of the program Coach Conley had piloted and shortly thereafter, Carlin Whitehouse secured funding for the creation of a video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzmQwY6JFLY) that successfully highlighted the program as well.  In the seasons to follow each male sport program at South Portland High School implemented the “Coaching Boys Into Men” curriculum.

Shortly after the Portland Press Herald article was published we received several congratulatory correspondences about the great work we were doing with our male athletes, but one correspondence in particular, from a South Portland parent, got my attention.  The correspondence started by stating; “Congratulations on this morning’s article, but most of all, congratulations on being brave enough to do the pilot testing for the Boys Into Men project.  Hooray!  Please expand the project to all the teams and adapt if for the girls.”  This email prompted discussions regarding the creation of a similar program that could be created and offered for our female student-athletes.

The YAAPP staff fully embraced the feedback and began working on a curriculum for the development of a program they initially entitled “Coaching Girls into Women” (CGIW).  In October of 2013, Sarah Gordon from YAAPP contacted me about piloting the program with our female teams.  Knowing the success we had experienced with CBIM we began to make plans to pilot CGIW and piloted the program with our varsity and junior varsity girls’ basketball, girls’ indoor track and girls’ tennis teams during the 2013-14 school year.   The CGIW curriculum was fine tuned through a focus group of twelve young women who participated in the pilot program and YAAPP then published the Coaching Female Athletes curriculum in 2014.

The Coaching Female Athletes (CFA) curriculum aims to educate, offer new views, model healthy and respectful behavior, and promote active bystander intervention.  It is a prevention program for athletic coaches to inspire and empower young women to grow into leaders and role models in today’s society by experiencing equality and safety in their lives, and supporting each other on and off the field.  You can find more information about the program by visiting the YAAPP website at http://www.yaapp.org/about/.  According to YAAPP Youth Advocate Sarah Gordon; “I wrote CFA in response to Athletic Directors and coaches who continued to ask us for a program similar to CBIM for females.  So we created just that – a way to reach females around tough topics.  The curriculum focuses on respect, support and leadership”.  According to a December 3, 2014 press releases, YAAPP’s CFA program has received national interest.  From Hawaii to Illinois, organizations are requesting CFA to educate female athletes on issues of self-esteem, healthy relationships, and female competition.

Each August, I coordinate with the YAAPP staff to offer training for our coaches around the CFA and CBIM programs.  At this point in time, this is a refresher for most of our coaches, but also provides a comprehensive training for those coaches that are new to the program/s.  I’m sure most coaches out there who read this article will think, “This is just one more thing added to my already busy coaching responsibilities”.  Although our coaches voluntarily participate in these programs they have all fully embraced implementing them with their teams and programs because they have observed the great benefits they provide and offer our student-athletes.  After the trainings, our coaches work with the YAAPP staff as needed throughout their season while they implement the program.  The YAAPP staff is great about sending weekly reminders to our coaches regarding the topic of the week and some helpful hints regarding the conversations they will have with their team members.

Each of our coaches is provided with a Coaching Female Athletes tool kit.  The toolkit contains informational cards about the program, the coaches’ playbook, playbook definitions and pre and post program surveys.  The playbook includes definitions that apply to each of the twelve discussion topics, along with facts and information about the topics, and helpful statistics that can be used to guide the discussions.  Included in the playbook are the twelve-week discussion cards that provide coaches with the tools to lead discussion with their female student-athletes regarding challenging gender stereotypes, treating one another with respect on and off the court, and pursuing female leadership roles.  The cards provide objectives for each lesson, tips/tactics on how to talk with the athletes, information/examples of how to be a positive active bystander, and helpful positive wrap up quotes to conclude each conversation.  

Our coaches typically pick one day each week that they will devote fifteen to twenty minutes to the CFA discussions and most choose a day each week that doesn’t fall on game day.  The CFA discussions are built into the practice plan for the day and the girls know that they are to arrive 30 minute early on these days.

The Coaches Playbook provides the coach with the education around the following twelve topics:

Week #1: Program Preview

Week #2: Gender Stereotypes

Week #3: Women Sexualized in the Media

Week #4: Body Image

Week #5: Bystander intervention

Week #6: Female Competition

Week #7: Digital Dating

Week #8: Dating Abuse

Week #9: Victim Blaming

Week #10: Female Leadership

Week #11: Working Collaboratively

Week #12: Season Wrap Up

The playbook includes definitions for the following: anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, body image, bulimia nervosa, bystander, bystander options (distraction, group intervention, checking in, humor, find help), consent, dating abuse/violence, jealousy, leadership, LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, allies), media, sexual assault, stalking, and victim blaming.

 

Here are examples from the coach cards for the first two weeks of the program.

WEEK ONE: CFA Preview

THIS TRAINING WILL HELP ATHLETES:

  • Understand the team expectations for the upcoming season.
  • Acquire knowledge of CFA.
  • Collaborate with each other on team rules for the CFA series.

DISCUSSION POINTS:

  • As a team, our goals this season are bigger than on the court/field.  We are going to support each other, women athletes, and women everywhere.
  • As a team we will respect each other on and off the court/field.  As athletes, people will watch you, and many look up to you.  How you act and treat others is very important.
  • Since we will be talking about issue that go beyond the court/field, we will have some new rules to follow this season.
  • Some of these rules, including confidentially, are included for the safety of your teammates.
  • What does respect mean to you?  How can we shoe respect to our teammates?  How can we show respect to other women?

TEAM RULES:

  • Be respectful
  • No Judging
  • Confidentiality
  • Keep a Positive Attitide
  • Listen to Everyone
  • Drama Free Zone
  • ______________________________________
  • ______________________________________
  • ______________________________________

COACH’S NOTE:

Discuss group rules with the team.  Make sure everyone understands the importance of the rules, as they will be repeated at the beginning of every CFA session.  Have the team come up with additional rules that apply specifically to your team.  This will allow them to take ownership over the program and have a voice.

WRAP UP:

“Respect your efforts, respect yourself.  Self-respect leads to self-discipline.  When you have both firmly under your belt, that’s real power.” – Clint Eastwood

WEEK  TWO: GENDER STEREOTYPES

THIS TRAINING WILL HELP ATHLETES:

  • Create opportunities to challenge gender stereotypes critically.
  • Understand societal pressures against women and girls.

DISCUSSION POINTS:

  • How many of us have been told to act like a lady, be more lady like?
  • What does a stereotypical lady look like, wear, eat?  What does a stereotypical lady do for fun or for work?
  • These stereotypes create a small narrow box of who woman are supposed to be.  Then, we as a team, school, community, have created consequences for people who don’t fit in that narrow box.
  • What are some names we’ve been called by not fitting into these stereotypes?  Are there names specific to female athletes?
  • Personally, how mnay of you have called someone else fat, ugly, bitch, slut, whore, or any other name that might make someone feel badly about themselves.  How did you feel when it was said?
  • Now, how many of us have ever used those words against another woman, maybe even someone on this team?
  • How can we expect others to respect us as female athletes?
  • How can we show support for each other?

COACH’S NOTE:

Remind the athletes that this is a stereotype, not an ideal, not a reality.  This is what comes to mind when we hear the word lady in our society.  Make sure that there is no judging.  It is perfectly fine to be any or none of these things, but it is impossible to be all.   (Example: sexy, but innocent, fit, but not athletic, etc.)

WRAP UP:

“Once you label me, you negate me.” – Soren Kierkgaard, philosopher

All of our sports programs hold “Meet the Riots” nights where the coaches have an opportunity to meet with the parents of their student-athletes.  This is an opportunity for our coaches to share information about their program and to introduce the members of each team within their program.  We also take advantage of this opportunity to share an information letter from YAAPP regarding the Coaching Female Athletes program and curriculum.  The letter shares some of the topics that will be discussed and informs the parents that the Red Riots coaching staff has received training relative to the program and will have ongoing support from YAAPP advocates and from our high school social workers.  It also encourages parents to ask their child about the discussions and to keep the conversation going at home.

As you might expect, our coaches have found the first few weekly discussions to be mostly coach driven.  However, once the weekly discussion have become an established part of the practice routine and the girls feel more comfortable with the topics and their teammates we have found that the discussion have been robust and very productive.  Most of our coaches have also found it helpful to connect each weekly discussion with something that has recently occurred and received national media attention.  This certainly allows the student-athletes to relate what they are learning about to real life situations.  There is no question that the implementation of this program has benefitted our student-athletes and coaches.

Here are some quotes from our coaches regarding CFA:

  • “I believe the students have a better understanding of the importance of treating others with respect”
  • “It has given us an opportunity to talk in an open forum about some of the issues that are facing young women in general and to really focus on some of the issues in female athletics. We have discussed some stereotypes, body image and how to handle relationships both good and bad. It has made us more open with each other, more trusting and built stronger relationships between players and between players and coaches. We have had some good laughs and some serious conversations and hopefully this program will make a positive impact on the girls”
  • “I think that the girls are more open with each other. I think they are more likely to take a stand and speak up. They have developed some ideas about what they believe in and are more willing to share some of those ideas”
  • “It is a good start at awareness of self, awareness of teammates, and awareness of how to make all that work successfully. It also helps girls deal with being an athlete and the desire to be the best in a world that doesn’t always want them to have the swagger and desire to be a hard working, assertive, capable young women”

Here are some thoughts that our student-athletes shared about the program:

  • “Our team is really respectful of one another now. The drama from the beginning of the year is not even here. We respect one another”
  • “We really stressed respect to one another and that really helped our team to win this championship”
  • “It helped with team bonding. If you’re talking about a topic that everyone can relate to, they contribute”
  • “I can see this program spreading. I think it helps a lot and its very beneficial”
  • “It was always kind of there, but no one ever talked about it”
  • “It helped us realize how much we do effect younger kids. I didn’t think about it before. They look up to us every day”
  • “We always kept the conversation light. We were comfortable with our coaching staff and really open.”
  • “We had to have a leader or someone to break the ice”
  • “She used Pat Summit (Tennessee Women’s Basketball Coach). She related a lot of it to things she looked up. They were relevant to things and people we were interested in”

 

CFA was piloted only by female coaches and currently is only implemented with our female teams that have female coaches.   At South Portland High School we are fortunate that ten of our thirteen female athletic programs have female head coaches.  I have had discussions with YAAPP regarding expanding the program to our male led female sports programs as well, which may require some additional training on each of the topics due to their nature.

 

YAAPP was able to secure grant funding to help with CFA initiatives.  In the spring of 2014, Sarah Gordon coordinated with a photographer, our coaches and myself to visit SPHS to take photos of some of female student-athletes who participated in the program.  These photos were used for the creation of the posters below.  We hung the posters in the hallways at South Portland High School and distributed them to our two middle and five elementary schools that also hung them.  The posters have definitely assisted to spread word about the program and to bring awareness to the importance of its message.

One pitfall we have experienced with both CFA and CBIM is that the curriculum remains the same each time a coach implements the program with their respective team.  This means that an athlete who is on a particular roster in a subsequent year will be exposed to the same curriculum, which could become redundant.  While the myriad of topics are relevant and important, we have had discussions with YAAPP regarding expanding the program to possibly include CFA II or even breaking the ten lessons down into seven per year, which would provide the opportunity for five of the ten topics to discussed in alternating years (week one is a preview and week twelve is a wrap up).  However, having said this, our coaches have found that having student-athletes who have gone through the program already is very beneficial to driving the conversations and helping those new to the program feel more comfortable with the subject matter and discussions.

As an athletic administrator, I feel that the more tools we can provide our student-athletes with – the better.  It’s not all about the wins and the losses; it’s also about developing our young people to be more productive citizens, and inspiring and empowering them to become leaders and roles models, while supporting one another on and off the field by providing them with some of the tools to do so.  I certainly feel fortunate that YAAPP is embedded in our school culture at South Portland High School and that they are willing to take such an active role to help implement and continue the Coaching Female Athletes program with our coaches and student-athletes.  If this program interests you, I would encourage you to contact YAAPP (http://www.yaapp.org) and I’m certain their staff would help you access the materials needed to implement this program with your female student-athletes or explore the program yourself at http://www.yaapp.org/about/ and by clicking on the Coaching Female Athletes link.”