Valuable Lessons from Executive Directors

On Thursday November 21, we had the opportunity to learn from local SBYD organization’s best practices on running and operating a nonprofit organization. In a panel discussion, executive directors David Cohen (Doc Wayne), Stas Gayshan, (Space with a Soul), and Mary McVeigh (Soccer Without Borders) shared their insight on finance, accounting, and different ways of bringing outside parties in in their organization.

While working in the field of sport-based youth development, I learned sport and child development are combined on various levels. One important task of an ED is to continue to ensure that operational practices work towards this child development. “You wear many different hats,” but this makes you become less involved with the ground-work of the organization. Cohen spends quite a lot of time with the kids in his program. He knew little of the prevalence of violence in the city of Boston before joining Doc Wayne, but “it happens in our backyard”. To all panelists, knowing their program and making sure they remember why they got into the job helps them to really get to love their job. To Gayshan, work is not really work, “it is something I love.”

Running a nonprofit organization will teach you many valuable lessons. Learning how to say “no” was most valuable for McVeigh. To her, saying no had a negative connotation and could potentially narrow down opportunities for the program. But when her decision not to sustain one program resulted in other programs to become stronger, she understood the benefits. Saying “no” became easier for Cohen when he saw that it helps to keep the focus on Doc Wayne’s mission. In fact, Gayshan recommends that we reframe “saying no” as “opportunity management”.

Panelists noted the need to find people that buy into the organization’s mission, both on an organizational and operational level. McVeigh noted the importance of matching employee skill sets with appropriate task; for example, she keeps the coaches that have built trust with the children involved in the ground work where they work best, instead of giving them administrative and office jobs. Gayshan pointed out that universities should do a better job prepare students to work for nonprofit organizations. Teaching them to “open up their mind and think in solutions” will prepare them to “manage opportunities”. 

Towards the end of the panel discussion, panelists spoke to the benefit of partnerships and collaborations, which allow a nonprofit organization to focus on their priorities. According to Gayshan, “outsourcing takes some tasks of your plate.” This helps the staff to focus on the mission. “Consider help with administrative tasks and seek help with other organization that have the know-how” says David Cohen. He reached out to several other organizations when time was not on his three-people staff’s side. A partnership can also mean that you share a space with other organizations. Soccer Without Borders exchanged ideas on various organizational levels with Metro Lacrosse “because they were just down the hallway”.

This panel discussion provided me a new perspective on the SBYD programs I worked with these past months. There is definitely great knowledge behind the programs that makes all this work possible.

“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 http://cbsn.ws/17ctdyL. 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: http://cbsn.ws/17ctdyL

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!

PYD Field Day

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Temperatures are high and the exciting summer spirit was captured at the Partners for Youth with Disabilities (PYD) Field Day that Huskies for Sport in Society hosted at the Little League field in the Boston Commons last Saturday. PYD is an organization that matches disabled youth with a mentor. Matches meet monthly and do all sorts of things as a team. We, Safaa and Suzanne, met Steve, the Mentor Match specialist at PYD, at a networking event in April. We’ve been planning and mapping out the activities for the day, together with volunteers Kelsey, Margaret, Chloe and Anna from the NU Girls Rowing team. The aim for the day was for the matches to meet with other matches and, most important, to find out that, regardless of their abilities or disabilities, they have many things in common.

The day started with ice-breakers.  We had a great start with the “Categories” game, where the group mingles and after a category is announced, quickly organizes itself into smaller groups based on the category to which they  identify with, for example music taste, nationality or favorite ice-cream flavor! We now know that Boston is the participants’ favorite city that only one person likes pop music, and that vanilla, strawberry and chocolate are the most desirable ice cream flavors.

Since the day was full of sports activities, it was important to stretch our muscles and the rowing crew did a great job leading this. All loosened up, the group split up and formed 5 groups, each group for each fun-station, including Soccer Challenge, Kite decorating and flying, Frisbee golf, Red light – Green light, and the Oreo-challenge. Throughout the day participants rotated around the fun-stations, learning new skills and more about each other and, most importantly, practicing being the leaders they all are.

Kelsey and Suzanne facilitated the soccer challenge. Our first group consisted of a visually impaired, really into sports couple. The mentee is a soccer-fan and his mission for the day was to get his mentor, into the sport as well. After some basic dribbling games, we started a World Cup tournament. It was Serbia against the US, against Regina (PYD’s co-founder and CEO) who represented Italy just because of her love for the country, against Suzanne who represented the Netherlands. Serbia won by 2-0-0-0, but we were even happier that all participants enjoyed playing the game.

The next group played a 2-against-2 game. Although it was a tied game, they were all winners. They cheered on their team mates and each other showing great sportsmanship.

All participants showed leadership skills. One member of each group was responsible for a smooth transition between stations, which required awareness of time and initiative. Other members were leaders in their own way. One felt comfortable explaining an activity, while another would rather demonstrate an activity with one of the facilitators. Towards the end of the morning, two mentees even initiated and energized the others to play a game of kick-ball.

To conclude the day, we gathered at the stands and recognized these leadership skills with a certificate to each of the mentees. Leadership exists in small actions, whether it is encouraging team mates to play or guiding them so they can participate fully. It was great to see new friendships emerge through sport and to find out commonalities that lie below the surface.

This was our first time organizing an event on behalf of Huskies for Sport in Society. The whole process, from the initial meeting to recruiting volunteers and actually hosting the event, was a great learning experience and something to build on for the future of H4SIS. A big thanks to the NU Rowing crew, we hope we can work together in the future! Here’s to Field Day becoming a regular, seasonal event. Watch this space for the next Sport in Society and Partners for Youth with Disabilities collaboration!

Saf & Sue

Where are the female athletes?

At Sport in Society, we often discuss the coverage of female athletes in sports media. Or, rather, lack thereof. It’s a central topic in the discussion group Out of Bounds. After we wonder about inequalities in presence of men versus female athletes, the impact this may have on our society, and the expectation we unconsciously have of female athletes, we tend to conclude that popular media just do not cover female sports and athletes.

A recent study shows that on 4,9% of Sports Illustrated’s covers between 2000 and 2011, a female athlete appeared. Title IX, and an increasing number of women participating in sports since the 1990s suggest that this percentage has been lower in the past. However, Sports Illustrated featured almost three times as many female athletes between 1954 and 1965 (12,6%). Regardless these numbers, the manner in which these women are portrayed is worth a closer look. Often times, women share the spotlight with a male athlete while wearing clothes that clearly not fit for a work-out. In their conclusion, Weber and Carini suggest that Sports Illustrated promotes the objectification of female athletes to their 21 million readers.

In contrast, Frank Deford of NPR thinks fans of women’s sports can increase female athlete’s media coverage. To him, Title IX is something women should practice. It would be too easy to blame men for their dominance, while women continue to be men’s sports spectators: “if more women buy tickets to watch female athletes play, then more coverage will follow”. The real gap exists, according to Deford, between commercial and recreational youth sports. Newspapers do cover local middle- and high school women’s sports. In other words, coverage changes when money plays a role.

In my opinion, both media and sport fans can narrow the gap between coverage of male athletes versus female athletes. I, for example, can change myself and with that, my surroundings, but Justine Siegal is a perfect example for this, as she advocates an increase in participation for women in baseball. On the other hand, media have the power to influence many individuals at once… So instead of questioning the female athletes’ presence, let’s figure out where their platform is hidden.

Conversations

Our current group of co-ops and interns is very talkative. At our weekly meeting, check-ins and updates on our lives always lead to great conversations. Besides that, we create agendas and discuss ways to market our student group ‘Huskies for Sport in Society’. I most enjoy conversations on social justice and the experiences each of us has in group dynamics. At the recent JCLC, we saw how a small conversation can make people feel included. Talking to a child sitting alone and wanting to be part of a fun game, turned out to be a small action that made him or her feel recognized.

Lots of talking happened at the Supreme Court this week. It reviewed Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act, two laws on marriage equality. Both cases have been a conversation starter, in America as well as my home country, the Netherlands. It was one of the main items at the ‘Acht uur-journaal,’ the most-watched Dutch news show.

It feels as if more people are starting to care about equality. Fighting for gay rights seemed to be an issue for the LGBT community only. Same-sex couples went out on the streets and propagated for what seemed like ‘their’ right. Lately, we’ve been hearing more people speaking out about the issue. For example, we’ve been hearing from children who’ve been raised by two mothers or two fathers,. They’ve become a valuable source of information for the media. Zack Wahls’ experience of living in an apparently ‘abnormal’ household turned out to be not as different as one might have thought. The 19-year old student said in 2011 that, “the sexual orientation of my parents has had zero effect on the content of [his] character…” It only took a small conversation to learn about this.

Just a few days before the Supreme Court’s review, former NFL linebacker Scott Fujita also reminded us of what a simple conversation can do. He hopes his daughters grow up knowing “love” means the same for homosexual and heterosexual couples. Fujita appeals to another large group in the society: athletes and sports-fans. He is able to raise awareness amongst them by openly supporting gay marriage. Similar to Scott Fujita, I hope that at some point we no longer have to speak up for out-players, athletes, or homosexuals in society, but can speak with them about issues that matter to us all. All it takes is a conversation.

Let’s continue this conversation and work towards an equal and inclusive society. A great start would be to take Prop 8 out of the state of California, and consider it a law that has an effect on all of us, just like Zach Wahls and Scott Fujita did. Let’s give ourselves authority by not just having the Supreme Court talk about these issues, but also discuss gay rights by the coffee machine, at the dinner table, or in our ‘co-op cave’ at the Sport in Society office. I’m sure we’ll have very interesting discussions.