An Indiantown promise made 3 years ago, now kept
‘A promise made, a promise kept,’ says sports organizer Scott Watson, but he needs your help for Indiantown’s youth to reach full potential
Kids who play outside regularly are happier, healthier, and grow into healthier adults, according to many parent surveys. One of the most effective ways for that to happen is to engage them in youth sports.
That’s a challenge for parents and their kids living in Indiantown, a rural community with the youngest population in Martin County, but also the most economically disadvantaged.
An ideally funded youth sports program costs thousands of dollars, primarily for equipment, professional referees, and coaches’ training, plus some extra that ensures no child is turned away.
“Youth sports activities have struggled in Indiantown for decades,” says Indiantown businessman Scott Watson, volunteer president of the Indiantown Community Athletics Association, a new funding and resource umbrella for all Indiantown sports organizations that now serves more than 300 kids between the ages of 6 and 14 within the Indiantown community.
Watson founded the 501(c)3 organization, as he promised during the 2017 incorporation movement, to expand opportunities for Indiantown youth, a natural accompaniment to the formation of a new village.
Indiantown residents proclaimed then that establishing a youth sports program was a major priority; however, funding remains a challenge. ICAA still depends on the generosity of local and county businesses and Indiantown and county residents who recognize the wider social value of contributing to youth sports.
Study after study confirms the benefits of a solid community youth sports program on an area’s population, which helps to shape the future health and character of adults who’ve been enrolled in youth sports, as well as the immediate benefits to the community’s children.
In a 2014 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers found that after-school physical activity programs would reduce obesity 1.8% among children ages 6 to 12 – twice the projected impact as any ban on child-directed fast-food advertising. As youth sports and physical education languishes, obesity increases.
A 2018 study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics showed overweight and obesity rates increased in all age groups among children ages 2 to 19, with 41.5% of teens being obese by 16 to 19 years old. A 2018 study from Nationwide Children’s Hospital showed that just 5% of youth ages 5 to 18 reported meeting the federally recommended amount of exercise — 60 minutes per day.
And that was pre-COVID.
“With all the turmoil of this last year,” Watson adds, “our kids are yearning for something positive in their lives.”
The benefits extend beyond just the physical.
Physical activity in general is associated with improved academic achievement, including grades and standardized test scores, studies have shown, and can contribute to enhanced concentration, attention, and improved classroom behavior.
Playing sports tends also to keep kids in school, and those who participate in high school sports are much more likely to attend college, particularly young women, according to the U.S. Dept. of Education.
In addition, a 2014 survey of 400 female corporate executives found that 94 percent had played a sport and 61 percent say that sports contributed to their career success.
Regular exercise contributes to mental health among students in general as they move into the teenage years, Physical activity also positively affects self-esteem, goal-setting, and leadership.
Both male and female high school athletes are less likely to smoke cigarettes and suffer from loneliness compared to non-athlete peers, according to 2018 research by the Women’s Sports Foundation.
Participation in high school athletics begins in elementary and middle school, which makes a youth sports program vital to Indiantown, since the village has no high school of its own.
A survey of parents in 2015 showed the positive traits parents believe playing sports has had for their children, which include: improving physical health (88%), giving the child something to do (83%), teaching discipline or dedication (81%), teaching how to get along with others (78%), mental health (73%), social life (65%), skills to help in future schooling (56%), and skills to help in a future career (55%), according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Harvard/NPR survey in 2015.
Over the past three years, Indiantown can rightfully boast of its highly successful soccer program with five of its teams winning World Cup Championships in their age categories. Their cheerleaders, who have new uniforms and safety equipment, won their first competition in its first year.
“We are very excited about our other sports programs, which have new leadership and are heading in the right direction,” Watson says. “We are in the process of adding spring and fall football, baseball/softball, and volleyball, to name a few.”
Much depends on community support, however, from both individual donors and businesses. Watson and the ICAA board, comprising member representatives of each sport, offer special incentives to business donors who sponsor ICAA athletes, including naming-rights to playing fields, scoreboards, banners, etc.
“Our sponsorship packages are a great value,” Watson adds. “Your name is promoted to hundreds of families in the community that buy your products and services throughout the season.”
The volunteer group also keeps contributions simple. Supporters write one check a year to ICAA to fund all Indiantown sports programs.
“In addition to the personal satisfaction that comes with helping kids develop into good citizens,” Watson says, “your contribution also comes with the peace of mind that the organization is being run in a professional manner with accountability at all levels.”
For a complete list of donor packages and benefits, email [email protected]. To donate, send your check made out to ICAA to PO Box 177, Indiantown FL 34990.
“Please help us,” Watson adds, “as we make kids’ dreams come true. They’re depending on you.”