Developing Gender Identities

Usually when I hear the term “Applied Ethics” I think of a textbook sitting at the bottom of my shelf at home. Now, after working at Sport in Society a little over a month, I think of organizations like ours, Playworks, Squashbusters, AmericaSCORES and the myriad of other Sports Based Youth Development programs that we read and speak about here on a daily basis.

My first project was to research articles for a new section of our website that holds literature related to social justice and sport. Thanks to the comprehensive resources of Northeastern University, I’ve read a fair number of psychology, sociology and philosophy of sport articles that give a diverse view of attitudes towards the modern world of sport.

After a few negotiations with the publishing companies, Human Kinetics allowed us to post two articles from their Sociology of Sport Journal. Though both are interesting, Michael Messner’s Gender Ideologies, Youth Sports and the Production of Soft Essentialism struck a particular chord. I’ve worked at a boys camp in central Vermont for the last eight years and one thing we work very hard to do there is provide a safe environment where the boys can learn about who they are, what they want and how to be the best versions of themselves. You don’t have to be an athlete to be considered a real man and you don’t have to always keep a stiff upper lip when the going gets tough. Kids are encouraged to talk to each other and to counselors about any issue that’s bothering them. It’s a great place, and I value it all the more from what Messner diagnoses as a common problem in youth sports.

Thanks to the feminist movement and a growing progressive trend worldwide, girls are given many opportunities to play sports. Often the field is still a segregated place to play, but it wasn’t long ago that girls weren’t even allowed on to the field what with rigid ideas of womanhood prevalent in the early twentieth century. Now girls are seen as, “flexible choosers in the world.” Things have come a long way for girls and the progress has created an odd side effect. Boys are now realizing a similar sort of prejudice that girls and women have been fighting against; they’re getting profiled with their gender. Boys are: rowdy, aggressive, simple, stoic, sports-loving animals destined for careers that make them money in order to fulfill the other half of the outdated dream of the 1950s. Boys on youth sports teams are more regularly scolded and yelled at than girls, with the justification, “they’re boys, they can take it.” They’re still being taught to be traditional ,“Manly Men.”  All children have complex inner lives that respond to the harshness of the outside world. If we keep pigeon holing boys then we will deny many of them the happiness of being comfortable in their own skin.

This is important for us to consider in this changing world. A few of us here are beginning a project analyzing various SBYD initiatives and developing a curriculum to help programs become more intentional and age appropriate. It’s a huge undertaking but it has the potential to be very helpful. With this information in hand I look forward to working on creating a more aware sports world here with this great community.

“Loved to Death” – A “48 HOURS” investigation into dating and breakup violence

“48 HOURS: “Loved to Death” explores dating and breakup violence through an inside look at the murder of 18-year-old Lauren Dunne Astley at the hands of her ex-boyfriend, Nathaniel Fujita. At the time of the murder, the couple had broken up, reunited, and then broken up again. The broadcast will provide critical information for parents and young adults on how to recognize warning signs of dating violence and how to avoid dangerous and harmful relationships.

“It is a crime that has no zip code,” says Tracy Smith who reported the story. “It’s urban, suburban, and rural. A relationship ends and what happens is an emotional surge of uncontrollable anger. It can be verbal, physical and sometimes, as in the case of Lauren Astley, it can end in death.” One in three Americans between the ages of 14 and 20 has been the victim of physical, verbal, emotional or sexual abuse by an intimate dating partner.
On Wednesday October 23rd, 48 HOURS offered a special live webstream preview plus a live discussion on how we in society, but especially those who educate young children, can use Lauren’s story to address the importance of preventing dating and breakup violence through dialogue with teenagers.

Malcolm Astley, Lauren’s father started the discussion by articulating that in dating or breakup violence, there are no perpetrators: both boys and girls can initiate violence in a relationship and share responsibility for how their relationship develops. But when a relationship becomes violent and leads to a break up, “men will often take violent behavior to a lethal level”. Men see breaking-up as a “matter of shame,” but Astley stresses that it is not worth to “win, or not lose, at all costs. It is okay for men to show their grief with real tears”.

In an 18-minute long excerpt from the movie, we learn through interviews with Lauren and Nate’s friends that they were “the ideal couple”. Lauren was “just 5-foot tall, but with a great, bubbly personality” and Nate, Lauren’s first boyfriend, the star football player and kind at heart. During senior year, after two years of dating, their relationship became rocky and in April 2011, Lauren broke up with Nate. While, according to Lauren’s friends, it was a relief for her, Nate started to harass Lauren. Nate’s behavior turned violent at a graduation party, attended by 150 of their classmates, where he slammed Lauren into the party-tent pole after seeing her talk to other boys. Their friends wished they had seen the signs of violence or abuse during the relationship. In hindsight, signs of worrisome behavior noticed by friends included Nate’s looking through Lauren’s phone and preventing her from talking to others, Lauren’s list of reasons for breaking up posted on Facebook, and the fact that they spent much more time at his house than hers. According to Tracey Smith, these subtle signs are of great importance.

When does normal teenage behavior become “dark”? Malcolm Astley regarded Lauren and Nate’s issues as “normal” control issues, something he saw all around him with other couples too. Signs on dating violence, especially among teens, break into so many parts of society. They are expressed in social media and can also be experienced as public humiliation: Nate might have felt his reputation as star football player was on the line. Signs can be hard to recognize as it has such a ripple effect. Therefore, we need to educate young men and women about dating violence and healthy break up skills.

It is especially important to recognize peers and their power as first responders. “Of teenagers who are in abusive relationships, 3% will tell an authority figure, 6% will tell a family member, but 75% will tell a friend” former Middlesex County, Mass., District Attorney Gerry Leone tells 48 HOURS. Casey Corcoran, Program Director for Children & Youth Program and Futures without Violence, says programs to prevent dating violence should start before men start dating. Today, 6 graders are already in romantic relationships, so this is earlier than we might think. He proposes to include talking about issues in relationships in the school curriculum so that youngsters develop vocabulary and understanding of relationships, which enables them to better cope with issues later. Early education can teach young men positive ways to express masculinity, other than the current violent options.

Nate’s parents recognized a change in Nate’s behavior. After the break up, he visited a psychiatrist but they had difficulties seeing their son’s behavior as a normal or abnormal response to the circumstances. Nate’s mom even asked Lauren to check on her son, but that meeting would end Lauren’s life. Lauren’s mom wished she’d told her daughter that “if you break up with someone, never go see him alone again”. It is common for parents to not discuss the signs of a healthy relationship. According to research at Elon University, the school Lauren was supposed to go to, “dating violence is not supposed to happen, so people don’t talk about it”. Peer pressure too forms a barrier for young men to join a conversation, as there is a danger of being seen as “gay” or feminine and girly. The study also found that teenagers often disconnect their personal dating violence from domestic violence: “domestic violence is something for married people with kids”. Yet teens will talk about it “if we ask the right questions and make it part of the school conversation before it becomes a problem” Corcoran says. Malcolm Astley adds that especially parents and educators’ experience can help youngsters understand that when they leave a relationship, he or she “will experience the most difficult time in his or her life”.

When you live in a dynamic world, “broadcasting Lauren’s story is just the tip of the iceberg,” Senior Executive Producer Susan Zirinsky says. Reaching out to young children and having healthy relationship education on all levels in school will allow educators to “take it to the next level” and continue to prevent dating violence.

For a sneak peak of “Loved to Death,” go to The full episode will broadcast on Oct. 26, 2013 (10:00 PM ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. CBS also provided a brief tweet you can incorporate into your Twitter feeds: #datingviolence can affect anyone, anywhere. @48Hours investigates its impact on one community Sat, 10/9c:

First month as an intern

I’ve been interning here at Sport in Society for about a month and a half now.  In that time, I’ve learned a lot about the organization and what type of work is done here.  I am still trying to figure out exactly where I can fit in and then get more involved.  My time so far has been great as I meander my way through the website, old projects and talk with the other staff members.  Us new interns are beginning to work on a collaborative project and I’m excited to sort out details of this and then really get to work on it. In my short time here at Sport in Society, I have become much more interested in how sports can be used as a platform for social justice. There are a ton of cool organizations that are using sports for some type of “good.” Each day I seem to read about a new organization that is passionate about doing this.  It has been interesting to read about these organizations that exist in Boston and also all over the world.  Whether it is teaching skateboarding in a third-world country or making recess more organized right here in Boston, the missions of these organizations are similar. It has been eye-opening to read about these organizations and to learn about how they accomplish their mission.

Beyond that, I have really enjoyed attending events for Sports Based Youth Development Organizations.  The first event we held was about a month ago and was on “Building a Positive Culture in Sports-Based Youth Development Organizations.”  The four panelists shared some really great information and best practices.  They were all really down-to-earth and so enthusiastic about talking on the topic.  I learned a lot that I even can take back and incorporate into my basketball team at Tufts, which is a mini organization in some regards.  Building and then maintaining a positive culture is incredibly important in organizations like those present at this first event and definitely on athletic teams as well.

The second event was a seminar held last week about nonprofits.  Rick Arrowood, a Northeastern professor, gave a lecture on “How Nonprofit Organizations Organize and Operate.”  I am currently working towards my Master’s Degree in Applied Child Development and really have no background in Nonprofits. This lecture was informative and I learned a lot of useful information. I’m looking forward to the other upcoming seminars held by Rick, as well as the other upcoming panel discussions.

Next week we are having the fall MVP Institute and all the new interns will be attending. I’m excited for this and to learn what MVP is all about.  Since I began here at SIS, I have been hearing about how MVP really puts the work we do into a certain framework. I can’t wait to attend the institute.  All in all, I have enjoyed my experience here so far and am excited for all the upcoming events.

My Flight has Landed

As I walk down the long aisle to my cubicle located in “ The Intern Igloo”, I’m reminded by my journey to Sport in Society, and the outcome I hope to achieve from this experience. My journey to Sports in Society wasn’t the smoothest, easiest or fastest, as I constantly faced multiple stumbling blocks and setbacks along the road. Attending one interview to the other, reading one rejection letter to the other and having faith when it seemed too late. I was almost certain that I had picked the wrong fields of study in college. Majoring in Management with a minor in communications here at Northeastern, added to the fears lying deep in my heart. I am severally confronted with the reality check of what I’ld be doing with my degree. I’m unable to answer that question as of yet, as I’m still in pursuit of my career goal; however, one thing certain is that I have an endless passion for sports and what it entails. Because of that passion, I affirm with the status quo that sports is a universal remedy for many problems and appeals to many. I’m always in reminiscing with the idea of either managing a sports team or starting up a non profit organization that may somehow use sport to better the world. That was a thought from the past that I never imagined would make its way to the present.

Somehow, I find my self in an organization that uses sports to promote social justice, and there I am trying to find my niche and where I can better be effective. At first, I thought SIS was a sports management organization as a result to its name “Sport in Society”, but I soon come to the realization that it works on elevating social justice. Here at SIS, the value of social justice, sport, healthy development, education and leadership amongst many others are its driving force. Unlike many organizations, Sport in Society is an organization that is fueled by 5 staff members,excluding its 3 Coops and 4 Interns, which makes them unique. From an organization that started with 25 staff members to just 5 now, shows how much of a rebuilding and Reconstruction that has been taking place in the organization, and still strives to maintain its focus.

The atmosphere here at sports in society is so different than I expected. Expecting to come into an organization where everyone cared less about their co-worker or their conversation or personal dilemma, I am stunned by the outcome. Ranging from grabbing bagel on “bagel Thursdays” together, to eating lunch together on the 3rd floor on a daily basis, to cracking jokes on each other etc., everyone here appreciates each other and work for the growth of the other. There have been times that the two hour long commute from Lynn to the office have tried to obstruct my coming to work, but when I remember the people I work with, the type of work they do, how important they make everyone feel, I am always motivated to come. I have come to love and respect everyone for their hard work and time dedicated into making the community a better place and keeping many students of the streets.

Although I’m yet to figure a way to be better effective in the organization, I am still grateful for the opportunity to learn, and for the platform to serve. Maybe the Famous MVP institute and Project Teamwork that has constantly been voiced during our multiple staff meetings is what I need to get boost my ability. I have heard so much about the trainings and the impact it has had on many, even from the mouths numerous NU students who took the class. I hope it appears to me a stepping stone for success and professional growth here at this organization and in the future.

My few days working with the organization has made me value the importance of Sports Based Youth Development in the community, and how they utilize the appeal of sport to create a world that is benefiting for everyone while eradicating discrimination, hate and violence.

The Daily task/activity here at SIS consists of conducting research, planning SBYD programs, designing curriculum, organizing community events and working with different SBYD organizations, which ever it is, they tend to use that medium to educate and promote programs that helps solve the issue of social injustice.

Like many other interns, I have a goal to accomplish with this internship, but what sets me aside is my admiration to extend it past my internship to making it a long term goal. That goal is to attain adequate knowledge, skills and program initiative that will effectively enable me run a non-profit organization whether it be related to sports or business. Attaining those detrimental skills and information will help me to some day fuel my goal of starting a non-profit organization that advocates for children subjected to severe social issues such as bullying, parental maltreatment and poverty, with the use of sports to give them a better opportunity that explains a better meaning of life. Growing up with nearly a dull or dark meaning of life, I understand the pain, agony and struggles many of these children go through; Hence, I choose to extend my current goal past my current internship with Sports in Society. I look forward to greater days ahead here at SIS, as I have come to love and appreciate everyone as my extended family. That being said, my long flight has landed safely at Sport in Society, time to check into my hotel.


New Kid at Sport in Society

I originally stumbled upon SIS after a professor of mine suggested I check out the organization. After doing some research, I noticed that their mission aligns with my professional goals very well. I obtained my BS from North Carolina State University in Sport Management with a Coaching Education Minor and I am currently pursuing my MS in Nonprofit Management with a Spot & Social Change Concentration here at Northeastern. My short term professional goal is to become a sports programming director at a YMCA, Boys and Girls Club or similar organization. My long term goal is to eventually become an executive director or CEO of such an organization. An opportunity with SIS will not only allow me to network, but it will equip me with more knowledge and hands on experiences in my field.
I came into this experience not really knowing what to expect with a very vague idea of what it is Sport in Society actually does. The first day as an intern consisted of getting to know my fellow interns, co-ops and staff here at SIS. We went over the mission & goals, history, accomplishments, etc. of the organization and I started to realize the magnitude of SIS, but I still wasn’t fully grasping the concept.
I spent my first few days observing the day to day operations of the office. Not really knowing my purpose as an SIS intern made me feel essentially useless, browsing the web as everyone else was busy at work. It wasn’t until my initial meeting with our senior staff to go over my goals and ideas that I started to formulate a sense of what I will be doing over the next few months at SIS.
The other interns and I will be working on a project focused on sport based youth development (SBYD). We will be formulating curriculum for sport based youth development organizations that focuses not only on sport, but developing a well-rounded individual as well. We are still in the beginning stages and in the process of ironing out all of the details, but I am excited to finally make a contribution and keep learning from this experience.
October is going to be a busy month here at SIS. Not only are we busy at work on our new project, but there are seminars, trainings and various events that SIS plays a role in. What I am looking forward to most is the MVP Fall Institute. MVP stands for Mentors in Violence Prevention. Since starting my internship, I often hear the senior staff, tenured interns and coops referencing something they learned from the MVP training in everyday conversations. Clearly something that remains this prominent in daily discussions is something worth checking out. I don’t really know what to expect from the trainings, but I look forward to participating not only for the experience, but to know what everyone is talking about when they bring up MVP.
I am getting more comfortable with the culture and roles at SIS and I look forward to continuing to learn and soak up as much information as possible. My goal is to not only learn from my internship, but to also leave a lasting footprint on the organization, hopefully our SBYD curriculum will do just that.