Lessons for life taken from the field of play

While the previous story about Binghamton illustrates what happens when athletes, coaches, administrators and communities forget the organic values of sports, the Doc Wayne Athletic League reminds us why we love sports and the good associated with it.

Show up for a basketball game of the Doc Wayne Athletic League and on the surface it looks like average high school basketball.  However, what you will soon find out is that the kids playing are not your normal teenager.  Sixty percent of the players are wards of the state, 80 percent are survivors of physical or sexual abuse, and all are in residential treatment with the goal of becoming healthy enough to do things that most teenagers take for granted: live at home, go to school, and play on a sports team.

These teenagers, who spend much of their time doing intensive therapy and other treatment activities,  are taught to play basketball and apply the lessons they learn on the court in their everyday lives.

Annika, for example, a 14-year-old, heavily pierced, faux-hawk-wearing student of Concord’s Walden Street School says, “I think my main goal is to learn to leave everything else behind.  We’re supposed to keep our head in the game, not supposed to bring all our problems with us, so I guess it just teaches me to go with the flow.”

The league was started in 2002 by Susan Wayne, in honor of her late brother, a pediatric surgeon called “Doc.” Today about 400 youths, male and female, play basketball, soccer, softball, and flag football across different seasons.

Last year, Wayne commissioned Wendy D’Andrea, a fellow at the Justice Resource Institute’s Trauma Center, to study the league. Compared to their classmates, the results indicated that Doc Wayne participants showed significantly fewer internalizing symptoms like depression and anxiety, fewer externalizing symptoms like talking out in class and starting fights, and required fewer restraints. D’Andrea says it is rare to find troubled-youth therapies that really work and are quantifiable with statistics.

You can read the full story about the league from NPR Boston here.

Check out the Doc Wayne league here.