America's three-week obsession with NCAA Basketball is in full swing. Known as March Madness, the tournament has grown from a sporting event to a cultural phenomenon.
People all across the country fill out their brackets, plan parties and host events around the games - especially if their team is winning. Meanwhile, young kids are looking on in fascination hoping to one day be the player on the team that everyone is cheering for.
In this society it's no secret that we esteem our athletes. Whether it's the Super Bowl, March Madness or the Olympics, our kids look up to athletes as much as they do super heroes.
That's why it comes as no surprise that in the social hierarchy of most schools, athletes are usually at the top in terms of prestige and respect. Some of this is due to our culture's reverence of sports that gives these kids top status and some of it is due to their sheer talent that puts the spotlight on them.
Sports programs also build tremendous camaraderie and friendships. And as a result, athletes tend to form a group of friends often at the center of the school's desirable crowd. Seeing the influence these young people have and the reasons athletes are good role models, a number of programs have cropped up encouraging athletes to no longer be bystanders but to stand up against bullying.
For instance, the Harlem Globetrotters developed a program called The ABCs of Bullying Prevention. This community outreach program was designed by the Globetrotters in conjunction with the National Campaign to Stop Violence and is targeted toward 6- to 12-year-olds. One of their key messages includes equating for students what it means to be part of a team and how kids can team up and support one another to help stop bullying.
Meanwhile, some high schools have instituted Students Athletes Against Bullying groups to help encourage athletes to take a stand against bullying. As a result, members of SAAB meet regularly to discuss bullying in their schools and what they can do to help stop it. The idea is that they stand against bullying and befriend kids who might otherwise be targets of bullying.
It might seem like "madness" to some, but I think all schools need a SAAB group. Because anytime you empower a group of young athletes to come together for something bigger than points on a scoreboard, then everyone wins.
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