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THE NEXT LOS ANGELES / TURNING IDEAS INTO ACTION : Livable L.A. : How can we guild a sense of community and improve the quality of life away from job, freeway and police station? : Solutions : CREATE YOUTH SPORTS CORPS

July 17, 1994

FROM: Anita DeFrantz, president of the Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles, pictured above with children playing basketball at foundation office.

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DeFrantz's organization uses profits from the 1984 Olympics for various sports programs. A 1976 bronze medal winner in Olympic rowing and the first African American female rower to compete in the Olympics, she serves on the executive board of the International Olympic Committee.

Her Sports Corps of teen-agers would train, coach and referee athletic games for younger children around the city.

She argues that school busing for integration has produced an unintended negative effect on parental involvement in neighborhood schools: Too many families live too far away from their children's campuses to volunteer for after-school recreation programs. At the same time, increasing economic pressures make it difficult to find parents with time for coaching and refereeing. The result is a shortage of sports and recreational opportunities.

However, Los Angeles has no shortage of teen-agers who could be trained as coaches and refs. Nor does it have a shortage of schoolyards and school athletic fields that are locked up on evenings and weekends. Her foundation, she suggests, could develop and offer classes in various sports; the classes would be similar to water safety courses offered by the Red Cross to young people who want to be junior lifeguards. The teen-agers might then be paid a modest wage, funded perhaps by government, charities and minimal participation fees from children's families.

In all, she envisions a wonderful experience for both young players and teen-age coaches, offering role models to the former and a sense of responsibility to the latter: "There are lots of good kids out there who don't have an opportunity to show they are good kids."

Most important, the sports corps would bring structure to some chaotic lives.

REALITY CHECK:

A sure bet, at least on a small scale; there is no good reason not to start it.

A key would be securing some private money to get this program off the ground. With city budgets tapped out, public money would be hard to come by, although DeFrantz hopes the program would encourage restoration of recreation programs lost because of city and state budget cuts. Liability and security problems might arise, but she insists that they could be solved with legal waivers and supervision.

Such a program could begin at least on a modest scale, with families pitching in time and some money, then grow from there.

QUOTE:

"What kids need most is certainty, and that's the hardest thing to get in this world," DeFrantz says. "They need to know if they go to a certain place at a certain time, they are going to be involved in something good."-Anita DeFrantz.

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