Beckley: Have fun, play safe

“Sweep the leg.”

We all remember the shocking order from the sensei of the veteran opponent during the final match in the movie "The Karate Kid" as Daniel assumed the famous one-legged pose. 

A player directed to hit his or her adversary where it hurts to eliminate the competition is becoming a shocking trend in youth sports today. With the discovery of the “bounty” scandal in the National Football League last season, a recent survey conducted by I9 Sports indicated the trend is trickling down to youth as young as 8 years old.

Competition is fierce among participants in youth sports, creating unrealistic expectations leading to the use of performance enhancing drugs and dietary substances, playing through pain, and unprecedented numbers of concussions and exertion-related injuries. 

Downers Grove Park District offers a recreational approach to youth sports.

The district’s goal is to allow kids to be part of a team and learn skills that help them grow and feel socially, emotionally and physically secure. The park district’s tagline, your chance to play, was developed from a focus group in 2009, in which a parent said, “My kids wouldn’t make the teams at their schools. That’s why we like the park district; it gives them a chance play.”

Downers Grove Park District not only emphasizes having fun through the recreational nature of its athletics, but also safety. 

The park district educates its coaches through clinics on the signs and symptoms of sports injuries and conditions and strives to eliminate a culture of “playing through pain” without assessment. 

Coaches stress the importance of wearing proper equipment, staying hydrated and stretching before and after practices and games to players and parents. While no one can guarantee personal safety, park district staff checks its sports equipment, playing surfaces and environmental conditions regularly. 

Appropriate emergency action plans and safety and medical protocols and procedures are also in place at every sporting event and facility. 

Downers Grove Park District wants families to know it values safety and integrity and offers people of all ages and abilities a “Chance to Play." For more information on upcoming leagues and programs, visit dgparks.org. 

Brandi Beckley is the External Affairs Manager for the Downers Grove Park District.