Many parents agree that the benefits of sport go way beyond the physical aspects.
Kids learn social skills, discipline, and the particular kind of self-esteem that comes from working as part of a team.
But those who gravitate toward solo activities—skateboarding, BMX (bike motocross), inline skating—often find themselves on their own. “With any of these activities, you don’t have coaches, or organized meets, or even much of a real community,” says Matt Bowley, multimedia director for The Right Direction. “We want to provide that, and show kids how action sports can be the catalyst for learning life skills.”
Bowley got involved with the organization through photographing participants. He felt an immediate kinship with the organization’s creators, Don DiBartolomeo and Ian Poor, both of whom had competed in extreme sports at the national level; DiBartolomeo began working with kids in 1986. Currently, they meet and do demos at local skate parks as well as schools to demonstrate for kids the possibilities with these solo sporting activities.
Not only does The Right Direction cultivate talent in non-traditional young athletes, but it also reaches out to those like Bowley, who considers himself a dabbler (primarily in BMX), not an expert. “Just as not every kid is going to be all that into baseball or football, not every kid who loves extreme sports is going to be the next Tony Hawk,” he says, referencing the legendary skateboarder. Kids might also find themselves helping Bowley out behind the camera, whether video or still, or picking up a microphone for a little public speaking experience.
Young athletes and their families are responding, and in such numbers that the organization has hit something of a tipping point. “All of us are holding down day jobs in addition to our work here,” says Bowley. “We’re a non-profit, but we’re really at a point where one of us needs to be able to manage the organization full-time so we can raise funds to reach more and more kids in the community. We’re even having to turn down some opportunities (to promote our organization’s activities) because we’re so time-crunched.”
To find out how you and your kids can get involved with The Right Direction, visit therightdirection.org.