Frozenshorts was active again in the youth sports this month. This time it was working with urban children in a semi tournament environment. Children were brought together for academics and athletics to help prepare them and give them a head start towards high school. These mostly eighth graders were formed into teams for different sports including, baseball, soccer, basketball, and touch football.
                This program has been around for quite some time and really has shown a benefit to the children and the community. The children study academics in the morning which include Social Studies, English and Math. After that they had lunch and participated in some activities before having some free time to play in an open gym environment.
                The Social Studies class I taught took a decidedly different twist as to what the children were going to study. We started out with a short movie about the declaration of independence, move on to the Civil War. We connected both of those events to Frederick Douglas, the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s, The Viet Nam War, and finally this year’s Presidential Election.
They had a debate over the North and South in the Civil War and also a Presidential debate which they then presented to the rest of the children in the other Social Studies class in the form of a campaign speech. We then held a general election on the last day of class.
                The children made up a list of ten things that they thought were important about the Declaration of Independence and the people who signed them. The list was covered up and then with each subsequent event in American History, we went back and found how those things the children put up on their lists were still relevant to each new event.
                You see it was the journey that was important. How was civil disobedience manifested, and in what form throughout the history of the United Sates? How could they learn from these events and apply the ideas and thoughts they had on their lists to their life today. How important it was to listen to what others had to say and try to understand their point of view if not necessarily agreeing with them.
                Now for the sports parts. Because of the interviews I have been doing with athletes and coaches I was unable to attend some of the sporting events. When I did I was mostly and observer. I wanted to watch and see what was happening.
                Here goes. In the basketball tournament I was observing a lot of coaching of the players. It seemed the coaches were being quite competitive for the games and some kids, unfortunately were not getting a lot of playing time. A coach yelled at a player to “get his head into the game” while another said to kids “you’re embarrassing yourselves out there.”
                One coach, however, made a list of all his players and the substitution pattern so that each kid got equal playing time.
                 We had a young man on our team who was a ball hog. He was “High Stepping” while he dribbled and was causing quite a bit of consternation with the head coach and the other players on the team. He would get yelled at, but continued to play and individual style of play. Finally I pulled him aside after. I told him that it did not look like he was having much fun, nor were his teammates. There seemed to be stress and angst everywhere on the court and sidelines. I suggested to him a solution to his problem. Why didn’t he pass the ball to the other players and get them involved. While the other team was guarding the guy with the ball, he could run free to get open and use his speed to create an opening in the defense and to create a little confusion. He looked at me a little funny but agreed to try it. The first time he passed the ball the other player wasn’t ready to receive it. Why, because he was not used to this young man passing the ball unless he was blocked or guarded to closely to continue to dribble.
He gave me a look on the sideline as if to say, “See, that’s why I don’t pass.” I calmly told him to relax and to tell another boy that he would be passing him the ball the next time he got it. Things started to click. On the last play of the game this young man passed the ball and broke for the basket, along home run passed nestled cleanly into his hands and he put up the winning shot.
                In our homeroom on the last day of class I asked this man what he had learned and he said teamwork was for fun, the team played better, and he enjoyed playing basketball now instead of it being so difficult.
                During the football tournament, things did not go so smoothly. We did not have a true quarterback and had to take out lumps. I suggested to our head coach that he give one of the players a try at the position as he was throwing the ball well during open gym. The kid was a little nervous and at first said he did not want to do it. In the next game he changed his mind and gave it a try. In the very first series of downs on the very first play, he threw an interception and you could see he did not want to try that again. However he did catch the game winning ball in the end zone and lit up like a Christmas tree.
Another boy was given a chance to quarterback. He panicked and dropped the ball. However in the last series of downs he made an interception to end the other teams’ final drive.
The last boy to quarterback certainly had the talent. He complained though that receivers weren’t getting open and that they were not catching the ball when it was thrown to them. I pulled him aside ad quietly suggested that he tell the guys to look quickly for a pass when they left the line of scrimmage.  First pass incomplete, and then it started. Three touchdown drives in a row.  Quick short passes to different kids with smiles all around. After the game he came over to me and smiled. I asked if he had fun, it was not the question he thought I was going to ask. He said “yes”, I said” good.”
                At the end of the school semester I gathered three of the young men around me and asked them if when they take a test in school if the teacher stood over them yelling instructions to them and telling them what to do? All three shook their heads no. I then asked why then should coaches do it to them during a game or practice? All three looked at each other and then one said to me, “I never thought of it that way.”
                There are now five athletes who are going to play youth sports differently than they would have before they were shown the Frozen Shorts way. We take baby steps, little baby steps, but those five guys, and maybe not all five, will now have a clear vision on how important it is to have fun when they play youth sports. And they will show others the way, and so forth and so on….and so it goes.