Connecting American youth and today’s athletes to cultivate character and community

Lift your arms straight over your head and reach your hands up in the air. Stretch towards the sky. C’mon, no one’s looking. Are they as high as they can go? Can you reach a little bit higher? A little more? Have you reached as high as you possibly can?

This is how every In the Arena Program begins: with an Arena Athlete and a group of children standing in a circle exploring the outer limits of their reaches. You’d be amazed how many think they’re reaching as high as they can and yet, when encouraged, discover that they’re capable of much more.

In the Arena’s curriculum is designed to introduce American youth to the possibilities that they might not have dared to imagine for themselves. We like to think of it as a trajectory shift: we lift their eyes to a place on the horizon that, in the short-term, may be just a degree or two above where their gaze was set, but in the long-term, miles and years down the road, results in a radically different set of choices.

Assuming that there is work left to do in this country where youth development is concerned, and assuming one is committed to pursuing a path that tackles that challenge, one must, at some distinct point, engage the following questions: How does one effect meaningful, lasting change in young Americans? What are the ingredients that, in the aggregate, are sufficient conditions for success in that battle?

We’ve given these queries a lot of thought, consulted field experts on the issue, tested out some ideas on kids, researched the question, gathered advice and plumbed the depths of our own experiences as teachers, coaches, athletes, parents, and yes, children, and we’ve arrived at the following conclusion.

In the Arena adheres to the belief that in order to effect meaningful and lasting behavioral change in young Americans, you must have:

  • The attention of the youth audience
  • A valuable message worth delivering
  • A charismatic deliverer of that message

You can be successful with more ingredients, but not with fewer. If you’re lacking any one of the above, your message will fall on deaf ears or it will fall flat.

In the Arena’s programmatic model is built on a system that neatly bundles this trinity of starting points: we leverage the power of sport in today’s society to magnetize the attention of a targeted youth audience; we offer Arena Athletes a flexible and instructive curriculum to deploy in their youth development venues; and we screen for and subsequently cultivate those individual qualities that render Arena Athletes the most engaging, positive and effective mentors.

With these planks in place, In the Arena stands on an informed and stable platform, poised to make significant improvements in the lives of today’s youth.

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