Opinion | Newkirk: On bullies and fieldhouses | SummitDaily.com

Opinion | Newkirk: On bullies and fieldhouses

David Newkirk
Guest column

Two recent unrelated articles in the Summit Daily deserve more attention than they'll probably get. The first is the bullying issue in Summit schools, with its rightful focus on victims but curious neglect of why bullying happens.

With our current president setting new lows in ethical standards, it is not rocket science to understand why bullying is increasing. Making excuses for a bully and habitual liar has its costs.

The bullying I've seen as a parent and coach is usually a kid seeking attention who confuses bullying for leadership and often reflects society's discomfort with people who are different. Some kids and presidents don't have the maturity to understand that leadership is not measured by an ability to cower, even if that can create some self-serving noise.

Ask your kid about bullying. If he/she squirms a bit more than normal, you may not have the angel you think you have. If you're reluctant, or see no need to address bullying with them, you might want to take a hard look in the mirror. Bullying is a learned skill.

Real leadership is recognizing, encouraging and developing what's special within others. Every person, every kid, is special. The challenge, especially during the hormone-fueled middle school years, is to find and develop confidence in that specialness before the drumbeat of conformity and the pressure to succeed smothers it forever.

Unfortunately, most school systems value conformity over uniqueness for expediency, creating an empty space where being different doesn't have the support or confidence to defend itself and triggering the bland statistical and "but we're trying: excuses seen in the Summit Daily article.

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The second article is the potential field house for Summit County.

I have coached youth baseball and basketball and refereed Optimist basketball for longer than I'd care to admit. I don't do it because I'm a sports fanatic — I was seldom more than a second-stringer in any sport I tried. I do it partly because I finally got pretty good at it — apologies to earlier players, including my own kids, who suffered through my learning curve.

More important, I do it because I strongly believe that recreational sports can help develop the leadership and confidence I describe above and that any such opportunities are incredibly important for kids, even more so in the fairyland atmosphere of a resort community.

As a coach, it's very rewarding to watch real leadership develop and to see the sheer joy of a less talented player succeed and glimpse the confidence they're building to overcome the bullying or the "we're not expecting much from you" messaging they may have experienced.

So of course, I support a potential field house that could provide more recreational sports opportunities during a six month winter. I think anyone who has ever been in the Edwards field house and seen the sheer number of activities going on would support something similar. But I offer one very significant caution.

In this era of ever younger sports specialization and parental Olympic/Big League dreams, recreation sports often becomes the neglected stepchild of such an ambitious project. Already, this article emphasizes the potential benefit for competitive-level sports.

But a far greater number of people, especially kids who need to be pried away from their computer games and nebulous social gaming, benefit from recreational sports and just a safe place to play pickup games.

A fieldhouse deserves our support but must prioritize recreational sport opportunities, especially for kids during prime after-school hours. Perhaps a fieldhouse staff could subcontract our elementary school gyms for just that. Unfortunately, it's hard to imagine enough out-of-the-box thinking and inter-government cooperation to make that happen. Keep that in mind the next time the school board asks for a mill levy increase.

Dave Newkirk lives in Breckenridge.