Chicago is a city of champions, and World Sport Chicago is living true to that legacy.
Like the Cubs of yore, the Bulls of the Michael Jordan era and even the Bears in the wide-eyed optimism of the start of a new season, Chicago athletes are built to stand out. But the exceptionalism in this city extends past the victorious score at the final buzzer; in Chicago, true champions embody the spirit, honor and stellar attitude that make them great.
World Sport Chicago serves to exemplify those great qualities by using a variety of sports to strengthen individuals and, in turn, Chicago’s communities. Its programs, events and collaborations with community partners, public agencies and professional sports teams deliver impact and change. WSC’s programming teaches respect, integrity, goal-setting and perseverance to adolescents in a collaborative – not competitive – environment.
“Sport, when done properly, can be one of the greatest means of teaching those skills,” says WSC Executive Director Scott Myers. “The challenge is that, in our society, sports is often executed in the ‘professional model.’ Whether you have a nine-year-old on a travel team or a 17-year-old who focuses on winning, it focuses on outstanding performance and not on building skills, athletic and social-emotional.”
World Sport Chicago is the legacy organization of Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Though the Windy City won’t be home to the next cycle of extraordinary athleticism – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, will host the next Games – the organization continues to thrive. WSC was created to embody the Olympic spirit and improve the lives of individuals at home. Its focus is on creating and supporting sports programs in underserved Chicago communities to build social emotional skill sets in youth.
“A lot of issues, whether violent or nonviolent crime, really stem from the fact that a lot of youth don’t have impulse control,” says Myers. “They don’t have the strategies needed to deal with the challenge of growing up in their communities. We’re trying to give them the tools to overcome those challenges.”
WSC’s programming includes an athletic program at the high school level for those who are deemed “medium risk” kids – teenagers on the cusp of gang involvement or exhibiting early warning signs of criminal behavior. The program combines social and emotional counseling with sports as a vehicle for reengaging teens in schools and preparing them to make safe choices. So far, the effort has been a success, with Myers noting a significant reduction of violent crime arrests and an increase in the number of school retention.
Additionally, WSC offers programming for elementary school children that uses sport as a way to teach them character skills tied to classroom success. Its extensive Paralympics program, which serves all of northeastern Illinois, supports children with physical disabilities. WSC also works with community groups to create safe play areas in local neighborhoods and collaborates with Chicago Public Schools to bring elite athletes to schools as mentors.
The mission has evolved since its early days as part of the Olympic bid, and WSC now strives to promote the development of sustainable sports programming for all that improve the quality of life for Chicago’s youth.
Spin to Break the Cycle, Saturday, March 8, 8 a.m. – 9 p.m., House of Blues, 329 North Dearborn Street, Chicago
Spin to Break the Cycle is a high-energy indoor cycling event that raises funds to support World Sport Chicago’s programs that are tangibly reducing violence in Chicago. This spin-a-thon promises to be both an emotionally and physically empowering experience, overtaking three floors of the House of Blues with nearly 500 participants. Sign up today as an individual rider to spin for one or three hours, or get a group together and form a team. Register here before Tuesday. For more information, email [email protected].
Photo: President Barack Obama visited the BAM-Sports young men at Hyde Park Career Academy. BAM—Becoming a Man—combines in-school male character development curriculum with after-school sports.