Our First SBYD Forum Event

Last Thursday, on September 19th, we held our first of five sport based youth development forum panel discussions here at Northeastern University. This series of panel discussions form a platform to connect research and various tools for collaboration, and encourage inter-organizational learning and support in a developing field. This past forum, Building a Positive Culture in Sport-Based Youth Development Organizations, focused on answering questions about maintaining a positive culture and creating an overall healthy and fun work environment. We had four outstanding panelists from different organizations across the greater Boston area: Amanda Smidt, the National Manager of Alumni and Center Services at City Year, Becky Nyce, the Program Director at Squashbusters, Max Fripp, the Executive Director of Playworks Massachusetts, and finally, Tracey Britton, the Director of Business Development at Edgework Consulting.

Overall, this forum was very successful. We had 20 representatives from organizations such as, Totz Soccer, YES, Sole Train, Courageous Sailing, America Scores, COB Parks Department, CSW/Wheelock College, and Edgework Counseling. The attendees were interested, engaged and asked many questions about improving the culture in their organizations. Everyone enjoyed networking with each other and getting to know what different organizations are about and what they have to offer. In our evaluations, one attendee said that the panelists really could “walk the walk” and that “the panel had a wide range of experience.” To read more about how it went, Ryan Butler, a Northeastern student with The Boston Globe, wrote an amazing article about how the event  went.

Everyone here at Sport in Society worked really hard to make sure that it was so successful, mostly because we had a lot on the line: Senior Associate Director, Deb Jencunas, told us all that if it was a success, she would buy us all cake and party hats. Lo and behold, at our staff meeting on Monday, she walked in with Transformer party hats and a chocolate Oreo cake. It was the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten! I’m very happy with the way it turned out, and can’t wait for our next forum on November 21st 

H4SIS

“Yay, school starts tomorrow!” I might be one of the very few people who said that about two weeks ago. The best part of a new school year is the students’ return to campus. I experienced “Moving Day” and was not even bothered by the traffic jams it created. Many Freshmen are exploring campus and I felt like a real Bostonian when one asked directions to Snell Library. Kayley, Matt, Prince, Kate, Jessy, and Dwayne, our new interns, came in last week and they’re about to start their own projects.

Among the new students were 160 people who signed up for Huskies for Sport in Society, our student organization. We heavily recruited new members over the summer at the Freshmen orientation nights. This many sign ups was actually beyond our expectations. To present these students with a good sense of what our club entails, we had many brainstorm sessions over the summer. How should we market our club? What volunteer opportunities should we present them? What are some social justice issues that will be interesting for them?

The club’s first meeting was last Thursday, September 12th. It was rewarding to see all the planning we did over the summer actually being put to reality. Sport in Society’s partner organizations provided volunteer opportunities, which we were able to present at the meeting. The attendants also showed their interest in being trained in MVP and Project TEAMWORK. Our next meeting will follow soon and I hope all members will be dedicated and keep bring in good ideas for the club!

A lot has happened… A lot more still to come!

A lot has happened in the last month at Sport in Society, and a lot is planned for the Fall semester. Last month we sent two of our staff to Boston Scholar Athletes to do a training session. The other co-op and I went to observe and to take pictures. It was a great opportunity to learn more about the facilitation process, and see Ricardhy and Betsy think on their feet and be adaptive. The group was great; they were very involved and connected our curriculum to what they were trying to do. They were able to bring their experiences, share with each other, and support each other as they prepared for their upcoming school year with the students.Image

Betsy and Ricardhy did a great job once again, setting the atmosphere with energy and enthusiasm, while also maintaining a sincerity that created a safe environment for everyone to share.

As Julia and I prepare for our facilitations, observing this training and having a mock facilitation has helped us get new ideas and become more confident. I am excited for the upcoming trainings that I will be participating in.

With the new school year, we said good bye to many of the interns that were here when we first arrived. However, we also recently got four new interns for the Fall! It’ll be great to get to know them better, and also to work with them here at Sport in Society.

Finally, we have been working on kicking off our student organization, Huskies for Sport in Society. Our first meeting is this Thursday and we have had a lot to do as we prepare for it. Everything seems to be coming together and I’m excited for the volunteer offerings we have for the student members!Image

An urban basketball court in Leon, Nicaragua.

The Common Denominator.

“Tom Brady? Teddy Bruschi? The Patriots, right?” These were not the questions I expected to be asked at the small, humid border crossing between Guatemala and El Salvador. And yet here stood the imposing guard, looking much like the former NFL linebacker himself, glancing at my American passport and rattling off football names like a New England native.

Immediately all of my preconceived notions of the country shifted. In 2011 El Salvador had one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world; two of the most notorious international gangs run out of the country, and the US Department of State warns travelers of violent extortion and kidnapping rings operating out of several prisons. When planning a trip to Central America this summer, you might understand why El Salvador did not top my list of countries to visit; I definitely didn’t expect a welcome into the country that included inquiries about my local American sports teams.

After a semester interning at Sport in Society, I shouldn’t have been so surprised. As a program that recognizes the power of sports and the “extent to which its worldwide audience cuts across gender, race, and socioeconomic lines” I knew the connections diverse groups make over kicking a soccer ball or cheering for familiar athletes. But tired, sunburned, and backpacking so far from home, I hadn’t expected to experience that connection in such a powerful way. In my mediocre Spanish, and his slightly better English, I learned that the border guard had a friend who had lived in Lexington, MA and recognized Boston in my passport. This opened a conversation about general sports, and then popular local surfing, and ended with the guard recommending a visit to an international surfing competition along the coast of El Salvador.

Travelling internationally as an American can inspire a host of different reactions, but when names from the New England Patriots are the first thing mentioned by a government security official, you realize just how universal sports are. It’s especially amazing when you consider the worldwide appeal of football vs. futbol, a topic that particularly incited debate when America’s gold medal potential in the World Cup was proposed.

Toward the end of my five-week trip, my first serious journey abroad, I had talked not only the Patriots, but discussed the culture of machismo in bullfighting, kicked around “soccer” balls made of wrapped up plastic bags, and read proud articles about successful Panamanians playing Major League Baseball. In part due to these real life experiences that contextualize the work we do here, I had also made the decision to dedicate more time to utilizing the “power and appeal of sport”; at the end of my summer vacation I chose to return full-time as an intern and facilitator with Sport in Society.

No matter where these experiences occur, either on a dusty field in Guatemala City or crowded basketball courts in Roxbury, I think everyone who witnesses the universality of sports can understand the potential for using that to create social change and I can’t wait to see what this next semester brings!