Good S.P.O.R.T.smanship

GoodSportsmanship.GIF (88625 bytes)

by Peter Cozmy

Inner city life can be very rough at times. Especially for children and young adults. The problems that all of society faces seem to be more prevalent in urban areas. Drugs, violent crimes, lack of resources, and single parent households can contribute to an environment filled with strife or even hatred. As a result, kids often end up releasing their aggression in a negative way. There does exist, however, a positive alternative. Thanks to the Special Program of Recreational Therapy (S.P.O.R.T.), young people living in the inner city have an opportunity to turn their aggression into athleticism.

Its founder, Terry Riggs, heads the S.P.O.R.T.’s Ministry of Ohio. The program started approximately ten years ago. Riggs began handing out flyers at churches, and inviting kids to meet at ballparks to play sports. He would then ask professional athletes that he knew to come and speak to the kids. Businesses soon began supporting the program and it eventually became a non profit organization. The program has since grown to support over 1200 young people each year.

The program is designed to do more than just let kids play sports. It teaches kids a sense of right and wrong. It enables them to work together with other people their age in a positive way. It stresses the importance of good sportsmanship and proper behavior. After a child has been in the program a while and becomes established, local churches are contacted to try to get the kids involved. Riggs is currently writing nearly 200 churches to see if they will take in kids from the court systems. Sometimes they can avoid serving time by getting involved with churches and community services.

Although the S.P.O.R.T.'s ministry is aimed at helping under privileged children in the inner cities, many different kids are involved. Males or females up to 18 years of age all participate. It is a program that not only touches the Christian community, but the secular community as well. Muslim, Catholic, and even Buddhist children have enrolled. The governor has even expressed interest in involving the S.P.O.R.T.s ministry with the state's current programs to help kids on probation or in correctional facilities. The program has already changed the lives of many troubled youth.

Riggs says that most kids are used to getting their own way. The ministry offers structure, and rules that they must learn to follow. Sometimes it can be a very new experience for kids used to doing their own thing. "Consistency is their enemy," said Riggs. "That's how they get away with things. If they're coming from single parent homes, you play one against the other, the parent that's in house against the parent that's out of the house. They play the teacher against the parent. So they get really good at it by the age of nine." The program also uses athletes to excite kids about the program. Former athletes such as basketball player, Freeman Blades, Cleveland Indian’s player Joe Charbenou, and Brown’s defensive back, Mark Harper, come in and speak to the kids. Positive role models are very important in today's world. Especially role models that know that there is more to life than just right and wrong. Mark Harper said, "I accepted Christ at an early age, and really took it real serious when I got into college, and I know that's the reason why God's using me in a lot of different ways right now, in areas dealing with kids and people in general life. That's my number one thing."

Ultimately it is up to each individual whether or not they want to believe in God. In proverbs 22:6, however, it says, "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." The S.P.O.R.T.'s Ministry of Ohio can be a great first step in that training process. Even if the kids choose not to accept Jesus into their hearts, now, a seed is planted. Perhaps one day it will grow, and the kids will have an opportunity to turn their athleticism into evangelism.