On August 19th, in partnership with the Atlanta Falcons, Georgia High School Association, the Georgia Athletic Directors Association, Atlanta Public Schools, and the NFL Foundation, educational and athletic leaders from around the state gathered to discuss the InSideOut Initiative and plan for its statewide implementation.
Nearly 150 attendees met at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta to learn how to begin reclaiming the purpose of education-based athletics, and left equipped to work on next steps in creating cultural change in school communities in the Atlanta area and across Georgia.
Over the years, youth sports has evolved into a multibillion-dollar industry that promotes early specialization and multi-team layered participation. Chris Millman, vice president of community relations for the Atlanta Falcons, spoke against such practices and in support of taking sports culture back to what it once was.
“When you were kids, you weren’t just playing football or basketball year-round. You were playing different sports all year long,” Millman said, adding, “The Falcons do not want your kids playing football all year round, period.”
Less than 1% of youth athletes will go on to play sports professionally, and only 3% will play at the collegiate level. For most kids, Jody Redman told the educational leaders in attendance, their sports careers end once they graduate high school. And as Harry Douglas, former wide receiver for the Atlanta Falcons, discussed in his keynote, society’s current win-win-win culture does students a disservice. Instead, the focus should be on the student-athletes’ personal growth and development.
“You have to have your coaches learn about their players inside-out,” Douglas said. “Players might be going through hell and high water at home. You have to take the initiative to understand them. Not everyone learns the same way, and you have to be a listening ear … When I say they need you, believe me.” Douglas went on to give advice for athletics programs across Georgia: know your vision, know your purpose, set goals, and get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
The importance of having full community support when implementing the InSideOut initiative was also emphasized at the Atlanta launch. School boards, superintendents, administrators, athletic directors, coaches and parents all play a crucial role in reclaiming the transformative power of sports. “There’s more wisdom out there [in the audience] than there is here up here [on stage],” Joe Ehrmann said. “Your responsibility is to do whatever you can to empower young people.”
The future is bright for student athletes in Georgia, and we thank the NFL Foundation for its continued, comprehensive funding of the initiative. Phase 1 training in Georgia will continue on October 14, 2019, and we look forward to helping our partners provide students with the human growth and moral development opportunities they deserve.