Can Participation in Youth Sports Decrease Gun Crime?

My Dad had a bumper sticker on the Chevy that read: “Keep kids out of hot water, put them on ice.” Nothing has changed, except that today, the kinds of “hot water” that kids can get into are far more dire. For them, and for all of us. 

It’s a notion that was recently voiced by none other than the First Lady of the United States.

“When we look at crime rates and all that sort of stuff,” said Michelle Obama at the recent Project Play Conference in Washington, DC,  “it’s like these are a bunch of bored kids that are unsupervised who don't know how to play. If we start there and then we give them a gun, you know, then you've got such a lethal combination. Why can’t we put those things together? Why are we confused about why crime rates are going up? It’s not a complicated set of scenarios.”

Warming to her subject, Ms. Obama, continued:

“We are raising kids in whole communities where there is no place for them to play and there's nothing for them to play with, nobody to play with, no supervision, and we wonder why they just go off on society. We can't be surprised with what kids do with idle time.”

Though I’m not surprised, I am perturbed that we still need to make the case for encouraging and funding participation in sports. If we start with the simple goal of giving kids a healthy environment to play sports in, and decreasing their idle time, we’d see measurable, tangible results. There's a lot of reactive debate about gun ownership and crime, but so little proactive dialogue about how we steer young people toward more healthy pursuits. To be sure, we need public and private policies that begin to connect the dots and create a more encouraging picture for our youth. But what we need right now is action.