A future, Varsity Bass Fishing athlete shows off his prowess with the long rod during a session of off season training!
Unless parents learn how to “pull the plug” on electronic entertainment, the ‘wired generation’ may never learn how to enjoy a host of healthy entertainment options that are typically available outside their own back door.
The list of activities is extensive and they can provide participants with the essential skills for a life long physical fitness regime.
However the time frame for creating the next generation of skiers and boarders, anglers and hunters, runners and swimmers, paddlers and bikers is not strictly limited to a key period.
Although studies have identified the fourth grade/ age 10 years as the critical time frame for introducing children to lifelong recreational habits, kids can develop the skills at an earlier age, or at a later age.
The need for life skills education is especially amplified in rural areas, where structured recreational outlets have always been rather limited.
This situation is obvious in many North Country communities where youth centers are few, organized sports are limited and the availability of a central ‘hangout’ is often nonexistent.
Some of the smaller communities no longer support a local diner, movie theatre, arcade, bowling alley or even a recreation center.
Even without an obvious lack of quick, easy and responsible recreation, bored kids are eventually going to find some sort of recreation outlet, for better or worse.
Fortunately, most North Country residents have a positive recreational outlet as close as their own back yard. However, these outlets are limited to those who have both the skills and the tools to pursue them.
There isn’t a lack of interest. A recent Outdoor Recreation Participation Study conducted by the Outdoor Industry Foundation indicates that: “Americans’ participation in active outdoor recreation remains strong; in fact 72 percent of Americans, age 16 and above, participated in some form of active outdoor recreation last year.”
Fortunately, there are a lot of other studies to back it up. Check out the highlights from some recent studies:
• Unstructured free play brings cognitive, social and health benefits to children.
• Unstructured free play in the outdoors brings a host of benefits to children ranging from being smarter, to more cooperative to becoming healthier overall.
• The study builds a strong case for the importance of unstructured free play in the out-of-doors for all age groups, and especially young children. The authors cite cognitive benefits from play in nature, including creativity, problem-solving, focus and self-discipline.
• Social benefits include cooperation, flexibility, and self-awareness. Emotional benefits include stress reduction, reduced aggression and increased happiness. Children will be smarter, better able to get along with others, healthier and happier when they have regular opportunities for free and unstructured play in the out-of-doors.
• Being outdoors is important to our overall health and the evidence reveals that contact with natural surroundings promotes healthier social behavior and lessens social dysfunction, improves resilience, helps to alleviate stress, promotes optimal psychological functioning, improves recovery from physical trauma, and reduces mortality.
However, a study that really caught my eye details the benefits of outdoor skills education and wildlife-related outdoor education. It indicates outdoor skills education supports our health, learning, and lifestyle. In addition, the authors note a significant relationship exists between outdoor skills education and lifelong participation in fishing, hunting and other outdoor pursuits.
In a review, the authors discussed evidence regarding the benefits of outdoor skills education, including improved interpersonal and interpersonal skills, environmental awareness, physical, mental, and social health; the ability to learn and concentrate and stewardship ethics in regard to hunting and fishing.
The study authors also noted indicators of recruitment and retention in these outdoor activities, which include early life experiences, mentorship, and structured programs that are culturally appropriate and more holistic and ecologically oriented.
The studies didn’t really shed any new light on the subject, they simply verified what most outdoor travelers already know. The time we spend outdoors is healthy, relaxing, reinvigorating, calming, stress reducing and provides good clean fun.
At least two New York state politicians have seen the light, and the legislation they’ve proposed appears to be supported by the recent research.
Assembly bill, A4345, sponsored by Assemblyman Will Barclay, R-Pulaski, and Senate version S4933, sponsored by Sen. John Bonacic, R-Mt. Hope propose “An act to amend the environmental conservation law, in relation to hunting, fishing and outdoor education in high school physical education courses”
The proposed legislation, which is supported by the New York State Conservation Council, would allow school districts the option of providing a curriculum of hunting, fishing and trapping education as a component of high school physical education courses.
Although it does not require school districts to implement the outdoor curriculum, it does allow them to offer outdoor skills as a component of the physical education program.
It is interesting to note that studies indicate the percentage of high school athletes who continue to regularly participate in team sports following graduation remains extremely low.
The likelihood of regular participation in team sports diminishes exponentially after a former high school athlete takes on the responsibilities of full time employment, marriage, children and family duties, etc.
Within five years of graduation, the vast majority of high school athletes will never again participate in a regular routine of team athletics.
The sole exception to this trend are high school athletes who participated as members of a Varsity Bass Fishing team.
However, the percentage of athletes who regularly participate in outdoor pursuits such as skiing, hunting, fishing, running, biking, paddling, hiking, climbing and similar outdoor pursuits continues to grow. Such pursuits are often referred to as life skills, since they can be pursued on an individual basis for life.
These are athletic events that do not require additional team members or referees. There is no need for scorekeepers or groomed fields, nor time clocks or bleachers full of cheering spectators or the usual cheerleaders.
Typically, the playing field for such non-traditional athletes is an actual field, or a forest, stream, lake or even a rock ledge. These are the fields for athletes who have learned to stay away from the courts. They prefer to play in special arenas where the only spectators are fish, fowl or game.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.