Coach’s Corner: Breaking the trend toward social isolation through sport

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May coach's corner, danny bernstein

There’s nothing I relish more than leaving my office at 3pm to visit an after-school program. Hearing the pounding of a ball on the floor, the squeaks of sneakers, or watching the exchange of high fives between participants and coaches brings more joy than catching up with emails and tending to the grind of my administrative duties. While the sights and sounds of watching our kids at play is inspiring, I believe there is another force at work of equal magnitude. When asked about the lessons of sport, most respond with the time honored truisms: teamwork, sportsmanship, resiliency, commitment. However, one overlooked nugget of athletic competition stands just as tall: connection—the ability of play to bond us with our peers in a social dynamic.

It is remarked that one of the greatest challenges facing our society is the threat of isolation. We retreat to zones of sameness based on class and socioeconomic status. We complain that our children are hiding behind the veils of electronic gadgetry. Communication is based on sound bites and photo imagery. Handshakes and high fives have been replaced with emojis and pings. Sports and play is the antidote to this withdrawal. Whether team or individual competition, you cannot celebrate your activity unless you have an opponent or teammate to share the energy. Sports by its simple nature brings together the collective spirit.

We see the fruits of this social utility every day. Special needs mentoring programs attract talented and challenged athletes. After-school programs bring together at risk children with high school and college student leaders from across the economic divide. Individuals are building a common understanding of one another through the shared love of game. We commit so many resources trying to manufacture solutions to the shearing of our social fabric, maybe it isn’t so naïve to think that dodgeball can save the world!

Danny Bernstein
Head Coach, Backyard Sports Cares