Cari Champion, ESPN’s First Take, Rashan Ali, CBS sideline reporter, C Harper and Aja Evans, Bronze Medalist — at Loudermilk Conference Center.
There are multiple reasons why I love the secondary color, purple. Prior to my discovery of other significant meanings of purple, I had developed an affinity for it, as it was the primary color at my junior high, Memorial Middle School. Memorial was a neighborhood school, in which the community took great pride. My true desire as a child, to run track for Memorial as I proudly donned the purple uniform, was unrealized due to my being plagued with chronic asthma. Not only was I afraid of what could’ve happened if I ran, my family knew all too well the risks that it would pose. Therefore, my aspiration was but a vapor.
While I will never know if I had the skill, agility, or speed to become a top competitor in track and field, my passion for athleticism remains extremely great. The endurance of athletes to push beyond their natural abilities enamors me, as I’ve observed many noted sportspersons play through pain. So, when I was invited to participate in the PASS national tour, I happily accepted.
PASS, Protecting Athletes and Sports Safety, is a program recently launched by the National Council on Youth Sports Safety (NCYSS). Atlanta was the first stop of PASS’s eleven-city tour focused on educating communities on sports safety and various injury-related topics.
NCYSS co-chairs, Dr. David Satcher, director of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at Morehouse School of Medicine and Dr. Eliot Sorel, educator at George Washington University, opened the event with a town-hall meeting. Dr. Sorel raised the awareness of brain issues caused by concussions (according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 248,000 children under age 19 are treated for traumatic brain injury (TBI) or concussions related to sports annually). Dr. Sorel publically thanked President Obama, whom he applauded for announcing BRAIN Initiative, a white house’s new research effort to increase the country’s understanding of the human mind and develop new ways to treat, prevent, and cure brain disorders like Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, autism, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury.
Statistics from the CDC report that in 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. Increasing concern for youth sports-related injuries, Dr. Satcher pointed out during the town-hall, poses a threat to promoting and encouraging the exercise and physical activity that is “critical to reversing the obesity epidemic”.
The inaugural stop of the PASS tour also featured sessions hosted by an impressive list of sports enthusiasts focusing on brain injuries, injury prevention, equipment certification and diagnostics devices, concussion legislation and the link between physical activity and academic achievement. Each session offered cutting edge information that attendees could take away and incorporate into their own sports and exercise activities.
The closing panel, hosted by Cari Champion, moderator of ESPN’s First take, was comprised of some of the country’s top athletes and sports personalities. Featured speakers included Aja Evans, bronze medalist (Sochi) and bobsledder, Michael Johnson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end, and Charles “Chuck” Smith, former Atlanta Falcons defensive end. Ms. Champion facilitated the group with questions centered on sports safety. With an attentive audience, the panelist elaborated on life as a professional athlete, injuries and proper training.
One of the most memorable statements of the day came from Michael Johnson, who once posed to his mother, “Mama how will they find me here in Selma, Alabama?” To which she replied, “If you are good, they will come looking for you.” And for many athletes, when they are found, the love that they have for their sport and their supporters compels them to play, even if injured.
While my track and field aspirations were never realized, I am glad to have been a part of this event and to have participated in the education of young athletes to ensure that another young person who dreams of taking to the track, the field, the court, the diamond, or other sports arenas can so proudly wear their team colors with minimized risks of injury. That, for me, may even be sweeter than had I worn my beloved purple at Memorial Middle School.
If you desire information on PASS, contact Ashlyn Shockley, Executive Director, www.youthsportssafety.org.