OCEAN CITY — Students and young athletes in the Ocean City area and across Worcester County are the first in the nation to implement a new program aimed at teaching kids important life values through sports.
The Ocean City Recreation and Parks Department is spearheading an effort aimed at enabling participating students throughout Worcester County public schools to strengthen key life skills through the national “Let’s Talk Sports” program. The program was created by the National Youth Sports Alliance (NAYS), an agency with roots in the Ocean City community and connected with the Sammy Wilkinson Foundation, and is being piloted by the Ocean City Recreation and Parks Department.
Through the program, parents guide their children through an interactive series of engaging and thought-provoking questions via computer that teach the importance of determination, confidence, respect, pride and anti-bullying, for example, along with many other key characteristics essential for leading successful lives as adults. Already, recreation officials and public school officials are seeing the results with the young student-athletes in the county.
“It is essential that children learn and understand the importance of respect, abiding by the rules and participating in teamwork,” said Worcester County Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Dr. John Gaddis. “The ‘Let’s Talk Sports’ program is a perfect tool to supplement our character education programs. We deeply appreciate the efforts of the Ocean City Recreation and Parks Department because, together, we can make a difference for our children and our communities.”
The innovative program enables parents and their children to participate at their own pace. Each section of the program targets an important life skill and scenarios are posed that challenge a child to choose the correct responses through a series of multiple choice questions. Since parents participate with their children, often on a computer at home, there is the added benefit of productive discussions emerging, which can strengthen the parent-child bond while enhancing the learning experience. It is also being used extensively in classrooms across the county.
“Through ‘Let’s Talk Sports,’ we have had some wonderful class discussions on the many values kids can learn through their organized sports activities,” said OCES Physical Education teacher Tracey Drocella. “The sooner we can begin to instill these characteristics in children and help them understand the important role sports can play in their overall development, the greater the chances that their sports experiences will be rewarding and really beneficial to them.”
Based on the positive feedback from parents who participated with their children, Ocean City Recreation Supervisor Al “Hondo” Handy is leading the effort to introduce the program to more children throughout the school district.
“Our recreation department was honored to be chosen to pilot this most impressive program that really shows the true value of what kids should be gaining from their sports participation,” Handy said. “Now we want to help provide as many children as we can throughout the district with the opportunity to take part in this free program and reap the benefits.”
NAYS founder and President Fred Engh, an Ocean City resident, said the program meshes well with the lessons kids learn in the classroom.
“If what kids learn in the classroom is important, then so too are the life lessons they learn while playing sports,” he said. “How great would it be if someday we reach the point where after the game instead of parents not only asking ‘who won today’ they also ask, ‘What did your team learn about determination or loyalty, or abiding by rules today?’ When that happens, sports for kids will take on a whole new meaning.”