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Sports Industry Responding to Reports of Underserved Latino Kids

21 Sep, 2016

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

A recent news report that children in Latino communities have fewer opportunities for activity and higher obesity rates than children in white neighborhoods has sports event owners concerned.

The report, featured on NBC News, noted that Dr. Amelie Ramirez, a Mexican-American health researcher at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, has tracked the unhealthy trends.

“Having access to a safe space to play is very important,” Ramirez said. “Many of our Latino parents are concerned with their children going out to play. We know obesity rates tend to be worse for sedentary children in unsafe neighborhoods,” she said.

A report by Salud America! found 81 percent of Latino neighborhoods do not have access to green spaces such as parks and hiking trails, blue spaces like community pools and municipal recreation facilities like school playgrounds.

This is twice as high as in predominately white neighborhoods, where 38 percent have no access to these spaces. And the “unsafe neighborhoods” that Ramirez mentioned tend to be urban areas.

Some event owners are tackling the problem by creating programs in affected areas. Major League Baseball, for example, has its Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program, which promote the sport to teenage boys and girls in disadvantaged areas. In partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, RBI leagues are maturing in local Boys & Girls Clubs nationwide.

The Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, which represents the boating and fishing sector, has been active in recruiting minority participation to the outdoors. A new program called Vamos A Pescar (Let’s Go Fishing) was recently introduced as a way to appeal to Hispanic fishermen. The website VamosAPescar.org tells of a campaign designed to encourage Hispanics, especially families, to get involved in outdoor sports.

In addition, the National Shooting Sports Federation has been studying the influx of Hispanic individuals (children and adults) into the outdoor sports market. NSSF recently released a report, “A Hispanic Market Study Firearms and the Shooting Sports,” which found that 72 percent of Hispanic respondents reported participating in outdoor recreation such as camping, boating, hiking, golfing or fishing in the past year, and that 41 percent of respondents had been to a shooting range.

Obstacles tend to be found in unexpected places, however. Soccer has long been a strong sport in the Hispanic community; in fact, according to YouGov Research, 56 percent of Americans who identify themselves as Hispanic, Latino or African-American report following soccer in non-World Cup years. But as recently as June 2016, Soccer America Daily noted the odd lack of diversity at the elite levels of soccer in the U.S. Many soccer camps, programs and developmental organizations, the article noted, are expensive, putting them out of reach for the parents of players with fewer resources, despite the fact that their children show promise in the sport.

The Nielsen Company, in its most recent survey on Diverse Intelligence Series, notes that the Hispanic and Latino communities, are a growing force, and that America can't afford to ignore or alienate this demographpic:

"Hispanic power and influence is surging: 50% of recent U.S. population growth has come from Hispanics and the U.S. Latino population is expected to double within the next two generations. And today’s significantly-younger, increasingly U.S. born, dynamic Hispanic population is shaping the American mainstream by maintaining strong ties to its cultures of origin, developing an “ambicultural*” personality that is at once entirely American and entirely of one’s culture of origin. Savvy marketers are taking notice and crafting dual-language communications that speak to both the American spirit and the Latino soul."

Ramirez, the director of the Institute for Health Promotion Research, said encouraging Parent-Teacher Associations to push for partnerships between neighborhoods and townships could open up higher-quality recreation areas and programs to families.

“We have to come together as a community to create positive changes so that all children can benefit,” Ramirez said. “The community needs to work together to make positive choices easy for families. If we do not change this trend for kids two to 19 years old, they may not outlive their parents.”

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