When I tell people what RallyMe does I typically get one of two responses: 1. Oh that's cool, or 2. Why? The "why" is a genuine befuddlement that upon further examination boils down to two other queries: 1. Why would teams and athletes need to raise money? and 2. Who cares if kids do or don't play sports? It's not like we're taking about something important (like youth education, for example), right?
In the past, I've answered by spouting statistics (7 out of 10 kids quit by the time they're 13) or detailing how the data show that participation in sports has positive benefits that range from increased physical and mental health and scholastic performance, to decreases in teenage pregnancy, obesity, crime, drug and alcohol addiction, depression, suicide, and even cancer. And it pretty much never convinces the skeptics; if they haven't been involved in sports, they just don't think that participation is all that important to the development of young people. It frustrates the hell out of me because I don't think, I know, that for millions of young people positive involvement in sports can and does change lives for the better.
So, you can appreciate how thrilled I was, when RallyMe President Whitney Childers and I attended the Aspen Institute's Project Play Summit in Washington, to hear the nation's First Lady, Michelle Obama, forcefully make the point that involvement in athletics is of paramount importance.
"This is essential," she said. "Look at all the things we learned just by playing. We learned problem solving, we learned how to communicate. We learned how to resolve differences without an adult being there. We learned how to organize our time."
She went on to challenge those present, and those who would later watch her talk, to step up and help solve the problem of a lack of funding in youth athletics.
"How much are we willing to invest in the kids in our society? Are we saying that some kids are worthy of the investment in physical activity and some are not?"
"This isn't something that's an option. It's the thing that keeps our society healthy and whole. It's the investment we make in the next generation."
"This has to become a priority in our society."
I'm sure I will still be frustrated by the people who just don't think that youth sports participation is important, but maybe with the help of Michelle Obama and other prominent like-minded individuals, there will soon be fewer of them. That's the first step, to agree on the importance of athletics for our collective future. Next, is doing something about it.
Bill Kerig is the Founder and CEO of RallyMe.