Sunday, June 23, 2024

Thank you to coach Steve McAuliffe for the very important focus on the state of girls’ athletic facilities in Cambridge (“A league of their own, finally a field of their own, but girls’ athletic facilities don’t compare to boys,’” May 30). 

Access to sports and wellness programs is an equity issue, and moving toward solutions requires a commitment from decision-makers – and innovative thinking to boost access and participation from the ground up. For example, when more than 20 kids in Boston schools expressed interest in Community Rowing’s free summer program but only six ultimately signed up, the organizations leaders dug deeper and discovered that deficiencies in the public transportation system meant kids simply couldn’t get there – so CRI undertook a campaign to ensure that kids could get there via shuttle service.  

Athletics programs and wellness initiatives improve lives, from boosting confidence and building community to reducing the incidence of health problems such as juvenile diabetes and depression. (Thanks to increased awareness around elite athletics and mental health challenges, schools and programs are also incorporating mental health awareness directly into their programs.) 

The lessons – and memories – young people take from a well-run sports program stay with them through a lifetime. If you have ever been on the roaring sidelines of a hard-fought game or ridden a bus of exuberant young athletes returning from an upset win, you probably remember the rush of pride and adrenaline you shared in.

Especially today, when our kids are reeling from terrifying headlines even as they grapple with social and emotional deficits brought on by the pandemic, access to a range of sports health and wellness opportunities is critical. 

So what can we do? Action items could include contacting our city officials and sharing coach McAuliffe’s letter, volunteering for a local sports program or event (you don’t need coaching experience to hand out clementines!) and, just as importantly, attending those games. Cheer on our young women and girls and experience their talent for yourself. 

The girls and women themselves are our best advocates. Let’s support them! Ask them what they need. Change is possible – just look at U.S. Soccer’s new, more equitable contract policies, brought on by generations of talented young women demanding change.

As a community, making real change will take strength, perseverance and teamwork – kind of like building a successful sports team.

John Pecchia, owner of Get in Shape for Women, Porter Square