For most kids at PS 173, the chime of the bell at 2:20 on Friday afternoons signals the arrival of the weekend. At this hour in the auditorium, you’ll see kids filing in from their classrooms with coats and backpacks in tow, awaiting the arrival of somebody who will temporarily relieve them of their academic responsibilities. But for the dedicated America SCORES NY poet-athletes, the day will continue, but it’s not just about poetry and soccer this winter.
The PS 173 girls and boys poet-athletes have not only been working on their soccer skills, but also engaging in important conversations about various topics that, as a growing individual, they deal with daily but may not necessarily feel they have the space to express during school hours or outside of schools--including self-confidence, managing stress and emotions, and body image. We use the Women’s Sports Foundation’s GoGirlGo!® Curriculum, which is catered towards girls, but we wanted to take it a step further and modify it for our boy poet-athletes because we feel that the major themes within the curriculum--self-confidence, emotions & stress, body image--are just as applicable and vital to expose to elementary school boys as they are to elementary school girls. Using the personal testimonies of both professional and youth athletes, the curriculum additionally hones in on helping kids to recognize and articulate how exercise and moving our bodies can make us feel healthier and stronger, both physically and mentally.
In an effort to create and maintain a safe space for the boys to engage in the same important conversations that the girls do, we use male coach testimonies in lieu of the female athletes’ testimonies. Having a male coach share personal stories with the boys’ group about the same topics helps in several ways. Notably, it eliminates the notion that certain discussions are suitable only for girls and it gives the boys a male figure to whom they can relate, which ultimately increases their willingness to share personal experiences that they may not otherwise feel comfortable sharing.
Though we were at first uncertain about how the kids would respond to these sessions, what has been particularly inspiring is their willingness to express their feelings about sensitive topics that can justifiably feel embarrassing to talk about, such as fitting in, or channeling anger in a healthy way. If kids hear that someone else in the room, including their coach, goes through the same struggles as they do, they will evidently be more willing to share something about themselves that they might have been scared to share before. Thanks to GoGirlGo®, we can help to provide this outlet.