It’s Up2Us Sports

Letters from a Lesbian/Cartas  de una Lesbiana

It’s Up2Us Sports

Dear World,

Up2Us Sports Sports is a nation-wide program that helps all children including Hispanic youth, LGBT youth, and Hispanic LGBT youth.

The initial idea started about six years ago. Since then, Up2Us Sports has gone from concept to national organization. Paul Caccamo started the organization, with Megan Bartlett right along with him. Megan and Paul had worked together in other organizations helping children. So it came as no surprise that Megan jumped right on board with him to create what is now an incredible program that helps youth across the country. I had the opportunity to speak with Ms. Bartlett, and I want to share the experience with you.

In working with Mr. Caccamo prior to Up2Us Sports, Megan Bartlett found that they, like so many other smaller organizations, were very limited in their ability to reach more people. None were getting the attention and publicity that they needed in order to create a bigger impact. So they started a coalition – a way for everyone to work together to better help children.

Ms. Bartlett had wonderful coaches in her childhood, and she couldn’t imagine not providing those opportunities to children. In fact, in her own experience, Megan was more successful in school when playing team sports than when she didn’t.

Their website states, “As the nationwide leader in sports-based youth development, Up2Us Sports harnesses the power of sports to reduce youth violence, promote health, and inspire academic success for kids in every community. Our research, training, and on-the-ground initiatives empower sports programs across the country to become a united force for meaningful change.”

Indeed, they focus on team building and team work, acceptance and inclusion, personal responsibility, and positive relationships; Up2Us Sports works on inclusion for all children – especially those who are marginalized – and improving all aspects of the children’s lives.

In looking at their research, you see some troubling numbers – especially in the LGBT community. They say, “LGBTQ kids in the U.S. often hear offensive slurs like ‘faggot’ and ‘dyke’ while participating in youth sports, causing nearly half of all gay males and 32% of lesbian females to hide their sexuality.” They liken situations like this to bullying. Akin to bullying, children in these situations have shown that they can suffer from anxiety, depression, stress, weight gain related to stress, and more.

They note that the coaches of these children’s teams aren’t necessarily addressing this, nor are they promoting a sense of unity and inclusion. I asked Ms. Bartlett why she thought that was the case. She says that coaches typically have little to no training. Often times, coaches are selected or come in based on their experiences and talents in athletics, not based on their knowledge of working with children. She says that many would not know what to do if they were faced with any such issues, so they don’t seek preemptive or proactive solutions. She said they may also be unsure of boundaries. As a coach, is it their job to address it? Is it alright for them to say anything? How can they best help their kids? Would they be out of line if they talked with their team about it? That uncertainty tends to lead to silence.

This is where Up2Us Sports steps in. Their website states that they “Create change through sports. Coach Across America supports, trains, and places dedicated coaches into communities where they’ll have the most impact on children’s lives.” Their organization works with other non-profit organizations, recreational organizations, schools, government agencies, faith-based organizations, and more. They advance sports as “…tool for addressing the critical issues facing today’s youth.” They understand that not every environment  allows children the opportunity which will give them the experience of sense of self, confidence, coping mechanisms, and courage they need now and later in life. Up2Us Sports gives them those opportunities, those environments. There’s still even more that they do. There is also the Up2Us Sports Center. The Center is the brain and science behind all of this. The Center provides scientific research, training, and even advice in order to support and enhance the work of everyone involved in Up2Us Sports. According to their site, the Center, “validates the impact of sports-based youth development, while giving organizations the tools and knowledge to increase the impact of their program. The Center conducts and compiles research to validate the positive impact sports have on youth. We’ve composed comprehensive reports on the state of youth sports in America, along with position papers on a wide range of sports-based youth development topics, such as the role of sports in promoting health, education and pro-social behavior.”

Indeed, they have proven time and again that their work works. They have many stories from their kids discussing the sense of safety they had on their team. All children, regardless of race, were included – each had their own role on the team. As well, LGBT children may not have come out in school, but they were out to their coaches, and/or teammates. The Up2Us Sports coaches have instilled confidence and sense of self in their students. Up2Us Sports provides the children positive, long-lasting relationships with the coaches and their teammates. One positive result that they have seen is what they dub, “the protective layer of peer support.” This is a crucial positive outcome which demonstrates that the children feel safe with their teammates. Not only have they gained acceptance and understanding from their coaches, they have gained it from their peers. This benefits everyone involved.

Megan Bartlett wants children and adults to know that play is important. It has been documented that sports improve mental health, physical health, and emotional health. Team playing, and playing with friends is good for children in every aspect of their lives.

So as adults in their lives, whether we are parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers, leaders, and loved ones, we need to support them in every way possible. Up2Us Sports provides training. Use it as a coach, a teacher, or just someone who cares. Team work is not limited strictly to sports. For teachers, their classroom is a setting for a team. As adults in any aspect of our children’s lives, every setting offers us the opportunity to utilize the training from Up2Us Sports. We can volunteer, connect to programs here in New York. Remember that even if it is not well acknowledged, continue to be invested in what you do. What you do matters, and Up2Us Sports is here to enhance your skills, and make this a win-win situation for everyone.

I encourage everyone to look into Up2Us Sports. This is an organization that is designed to help our Hispanic children, our LGBT children, and our Hispanic LGBT children. To learn more about Up2Us Sports, please visit their website at https://www.up2us.org/

Live life in your own special way,

Lauren

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