School of Education professor to lead conversation with Malorie Polster, advisor to the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition
By Clara Turnage
OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi School of Education Professor Hunter Taylor will host Malorie Polster, advisor to U.S. President Joe Biden’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition this month for a talk on the benefits and potential challenges of youth engagement in sports.
Taylor, clinical assistant professor of teacher education and coordinator of the online minor in education, and Oxford High School Coach Chris Cutcliffe will host Polster on a live webinar and later publish the conversation on their sports podcast, Coach and Doc. The conversation, which is free and open to the public, is set for 7:30 p.m. CST on Sept. 27.
The group will discuss youth sports, including how much sports participation is too much, how to be supportive parents and spectators, and the benefits and setbacks to early sport specialization.
“Sports and activities are a big part of kids’ lives,” Taylor said. “However, so often we as parents and/or mentors fail to ask the big questions at the beginning of our kids’ journeys with sports to ensure that these experiences have long-term value for the rest of their lives. Malorie (Polster) is really good about presenting information that her group has uncovered that I think will help us ask the right questions.
“Sports can be a great classroom that builds healthy habits like self-esteem, resilience, and collaboration. We just want to make sure we’re not poorly designing our youth sports experiences where they are failing to cultivate these types of traits and values, and instead are just adding more problems.”
In a recent study, the Women’s Sports Foundation found that students who participated in sports reported fewer signs of depression and loneliness. The same study found that while participation in youth sports across the board declined during the pandemic, the most vulnerable populations were Hispanic and Black youth, young women and youth in urban areas.
Taylor presented his youth sports research earlier this year on Capitol Hill at the inaugural Champions Summit, which sought to highlight the challenges facing high school athletics today, where he first heard Polster speak about the declining rate of young women in youth sports after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Malorie was incredible,” Taylor said. “Her presentation was a mouth-drop moment.”
Alongside building character and resilience, Taylor said participation in sports can help students learn to work together as a team, build social skills and teach students to value the input and abilities of others.
“It teaches them a growth mindset,” Taylor said. “Every athlete will fail at some point. How do you handle adversity? How do you handle prosperity? Those are a life skills.”
The expansion of youth sports in the last two decades has increased the pressure for kids to succeed in sports, Taylor said. Some parents want to raise the next Olympian, the next championship player, regardless of the wants and mental health of the child, he said. The practice of over-sharing a child’s life on social media can exacerbate this pressure.
“There can be a lot of pressure and status involved, and that puts tension on how we operate as a family,” Taylor said. “The intent of getting your kids involved in sports goes back to the experience we want our kids to have, the characteristics they learn – that’s what we want them to gain.
“I think this is a community issue. It’s a statewide issue. We’re all concerned with how our future citizens are developing, and sports are a big part of their lives.”
Registration for the livestream is available at coachanddoc.com/clinic2023. Viewers may submit questions for Polster or the hosts through the registration portal.