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Medfield Public Schools Hosts Panel Discussion on Youth Sports Participation
Jeffrey Marsden
Tuesday, November 12, 2019


MEDFIELD -- Superintendent Jeffrey Marsden is pleased to announce that the Medfield Public Schools recently held a panel discussion with prominent local athletes and industry experts on the topic of youth sports participation.

The discussion, “Help Your Young Athlete Win the Race: Finding Balance in Youth Sports,” was held Monday, Oct. 28 at the Blake Middle School library. The event was sponsored by Medfield’s Challenge Success Parent Group.

“It was great to see so many parents from the community come together for this very important discussion,” Superintendent Marsden said. “Athletics provide a variety of benefits to our students, but we must all be on the same page when it comes to student safety and how to best balance sports with everything else that is going on in our students’ busy lives.”

Topics raised at the discussion included how parents can best support children who play sports, how much participation is too much, how student athletes can balance sports with their academic and family lives and understanding the risks of overuse injuries.

The event was well attended by about 90 people, and was well received with many follow up comments and questions.

The evening opened with a screening of the TEDTalk, "The Race to Nowhere in Youth Sports," followed by brief presentations and a discussion with a panel that included:

Mimi Borkan – Medfield High School Class of 2013 soccer and ice hockey goalie, University of New Hampshire Division 1 soccer goalie, Providence College Athletic Department Championships Assistant.

Carl Gustafson - Medfield parent, youth soccer coach, physical therapist, certified licensed athletic trainer and certified strength and conditioning specialist.

Kristine Lilly - Medfield parent, youth soccer coach, author, two-time World Cup champion, two-time Olympic gold medalist and co-founder of the TeamFirst Soccer Academy.

Janel Jorgensen McArdle – Medfield parent, Swim Across America board member, silver medalist swimmer in the 1988 Olympic Games, four-time American record holder; two-time Pan American Games gold medalist, two-time Goodwill Games champion and Stanford University Hall of Fame member.

The discussion was moderated by David Worthley, Director of Social-Emotional Learning (RISE) at Medfield High School.

“We are fortunate to have so many experts right here in Medfield that made this evening possible,” Superintendent Marsden said. “From local World Cup and Olympic champions to our highly engaged group of parents, this discussion was a collaboration from many of the stakeholders in town who care about the well-being of our students."

The Challenge Success program partners with schools, families and communities to embrace a broad definition of success and to implement research-based strategies that promote student well-being and engagement with learning. The Oct. 28 youth sports discussion is the latest in a series of initiatives since Medfield Public Schools partnered with Challenge Success in the spring of 2018.

Nicki Gustafson, one of the parent representatives on the district's Challenge Success team, said the discussion is part of the group’s broader goal to reduce stress and anxiety that is on the rise in students.

“Youth sports were designed to be fun, not an added pressure in the day,” Gustafson continued. “The athletes on the panel spoke about their journey to success and how self-driven they were in their journeys and how they did not feel parental or societal pressure. And we were fortunate to have a physical therapist be able to speak about overuse injuries and how to prevent them, as well as red flags to look for when a sport has become too intense or an athlete unhappy.”

Fellow parent representative Kristen Careau said a major take-away from the discussion was that success is less stressful to attain when it is defined by happiness.

“Challenging the way ‘success’ is measured is the core concept of Challenge Success, and we’re very pleased that so many parents chose to attend this important discussion of how they can help their children achieve a healthy, happy approach to youth sports,” Careau said. “Personally, I felt a connection to the reminder that what works for one child doesn’t necessarily work for another child, even within the same family.”

Other recent Challenge Success efforts include the following:

Jon Kleiman, the Challenge Success School Program Director, visited Medfield this past spring to work with high school faculty and share data from the Challenge Success student survey completed by all students in grades 6-12. Executive summaries from the surveys can be found here for Blake Middle School and here for Medfield High School.

At Medfield High School, programming updates include a change in the mid-year exam format. The school is currently exploring aspects of a master schedule that support many of the Challenge Success principles.

Over the past year, various activities for high school students have included an all-school assembly and Stress Tree advisory activity designed to provide an opportunity for students to provide feedback regarding the various challenges they have in maintaining balance in their lives.

The advisory program in grades 6-12 has focused on Challenge Success initiatives identified from the school surveys. Staff and students spent professional development time this past summer to revise the programs at both schools.

The Medfield Challenge Success Parent Group presented several events including the Well-Balanced Student K-8 and a district-wide book talk “Doing School: How We Are Creating a Generation of Stressed-Out, Materialistic, and Miseducated Students” by Denise Pope.

The Challenge Success working team has increased in size, which now includes district and building administrators, four high school students, four parents (representing both elementary and secondary schools) and four teachers. This team has partnered with the district-wide Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) task force.

Community members can access the Medfield Challenge Success website for updates and resources throughout the school year.