LTE: What’s lacking for Cornwall teenagers

Teens want to belong and look for those who welcome them. Teens who feel that they don’t belong can join gangs or create bonds with others by sharing experiences that involve breaking the law. When I asked some of our local teens what there is for them to do, the popular answer was that there’s nothing to do in this town. A large amount of the money spent regarding youth crime is spent on correction facilities and punishing teens. The money should be used towards expenses that would prevent them from feeling as though they need to break the law. According to the True Sport Foundation, there are increasingly more teens who commit crimes in Canada and there are less teens who are playing sports. Allowing sports to be available to everyone and bringing back the fun in sports could change this. Teens who play in organized sports are more likely to do well and less likely to put themselves at risk of harm. They are also more likely to be healthy and take care of themselves. Unfortunately, in our community, not everyone is able to play an organized sport because of the lack of available support and gaps in programs.

Why sports? Sports encourage self-discipline and provide a group to belong to that shares a common goal of winning. Sports raise self-esteem and positive body image. Sports keep teens out of trouble by giving them something to do and gives them the rush that they are looking for. Sports are full of positive mentors including the coaches, the volunteers and the parents who are cheering them on.

There are programs who provide some help such as Jumpstart or the subsidized program through the city but it doesn’t fit for all families. To be subsidized by the city, your income must be below the poverty line. The cut-off is so low that if you make just enough money to pay your bills but have nothing left to pay for activities, you are making too much money to qualify. There is also the Jumpstart program who has a yearly maximum and does not cover all the costs. Extra costs can include how to get there, equipment for the sport, additional snacks and fees not included in the memberships. If a small amount of money was redirected from funding correctional facilities to fund teens participating in sports, this could change. Programs should also be working together to provide car-pooling, bus tickets or taxi services.

Girls, especially from low income families, are the ones who are the least involved in organized sports. Others who struggle to include their teens in sports are single parents, new immigrants, families with many children and those who live outside the city limits and have no transportation. But what about the teens who don’t want to participate? Parents and coaches are the key to getting kids involved. Sports need to become fun again and include the values of fair play. According to the International Fair Play Committee, this includes respect, friendship, team spirit, equality, sports without doping, integrity, solidarity, tolerance, care, excellence and joy. Parents and coaches must be educated about the values of fair play and more teens will want to play sports.

According to the City of Cornwall website, Cornwall is ranked as one of the premier retirement communities in Canada, but what about the teens? How much money your parents make, where you live, your gender or your race shouldn’t be what decides if you can play an organized sport and have a better chance to be healthy and successful. It’s time to invest in our future and support the next generation.

Lise Walker

According to Walker’s preamble, she is a Master of Social Work student with a bachelor degree in Social Work and has been working in the community in the field of social work for over 10 years.