Support

These represent excerpts from letters of support we have received. Thank so much to all.

“It’s been disheartening to see a recent string of high school sports incidents involving hazing, racism, bullying, and anti-semitism. This bill will enable interested schools to transform the cultures of their athletic teams, while also teaching student athletes social-emotional skills that will benefit them on and off the field. We’ve long thought of athletics as a means of imparting important skills and values to young people. This legislation will help ensure that our school sports programs truly live up to that vision.”

— Senate Majority Leader Cynthia Creem.

“Physical and mental health are incredibly important in all stages of life, but especially for young people as they continue developing. This bill works to bring physical and mental health together in a way that connects with student interest. The goal of this bill is to provide adolescents the opportunity to build and sustain positive, healthy, and emotionally mature relationships through middle and high school athletic programs and team cultures that are bias-free, supportive, and safe.”

— Representative Kay Khan, stating why this legislation is important.

“Re: S.247/H.516, An Act to Remodel Public School Athletics through Social Emotional Learning.

This testimony is submitted on behalf of the Massachusetts Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics (MCAAP) in support of S.247. The MCAAP represents more than 1,600 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists, and pediatric surgical specialists. Our members are dedicated to improving the quality of life for children by providing quality health care and advocating for them and their families.

Keeping kids safe while playing sports means more than just preventing injuries. It also means creating an environment where kids can enjoy the benefits of athletic participation in a safe, supportive and bias-free team culture. This is especially true in school based athletics. Competitiveness and team building in sports are good for students, but a “win at any cost” culture can lead to emotional stress and harm to student athletes.

S. 247 would require the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop guidelines for the implementation of social and emotional learning curricula in middle and high school athletic programs, which is intended to create safe, supportive and bias-free team cultures. The curriculum would also educate students in age-appropriate leadership roles in making decisions and carrying out responsibilities within the team framework, including empowering students to speak up and report behaviors that are contrary to a safe, supportive and bias-free culture.

MCAAP supports the concept of social and emotional learning as provided in S.247, not only in athletics but overall in all school activities, which allows children to acquire the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to recognize and manage their emotions, demonstrate caring and concern for others, establish positive relationships, make responsible decisions and constructively handle challenging social situations.

We would urge the Committee to advance S.247 with a favorable report.”

— Mary Beth Miotto, MD, MPH, FAAP President, Massachusetts Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“This letter is sent in support of An Act to Remodel Public School Athletics through Social Emotional Learning (S.247/H.516).

I began my coaching career at Westwood High School where for eleven years, I learned not only how to win, but also how to build relationships with my players. As I reflect on those years and my 40 years as head varsity coach for the Harvard’s Women’s Basketball program, I realize that more than half of my job was navigating the mental health of my players and myself. I learned like most coaches, by trial and error. No one taught me the power of sport as a classroom.

I am one hundred percent in agreement with the idea that high school sports would benefit from providing a written, science-based curriculum. It would help guide and assist all participating coaches in developing a holistic approach to coaching that recognizes that relationships and having fun are two of the most important facets of a successful coach and team.

The bill before you is a first step in understanding the role that coaches can play in both the physical and emotional development of their athletes. I urge you to recommend that this bill be approved by the Joint Committee on Education.”

— Kathy Delaney-Smith, Ivy League Championship Coach ‘86, ‘88, ‘91, ‘96, ‘97, ‘98, ‘02, ‘03, ‘05, ‘07, ‘08, Tournament Appearances ‘96, ‘97, ‘98, ‘02, ‘03, ‘07, ‘09, ‘10, ‘12.

“I had the honor of learning from and knowing Nelson Mandela who saw the power of sport clearly when he famously declared, ‘Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand.’….this amendment (to the MA Anti-Bullying Law) will allow the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to address public middle and high school sports in a way that informs our children’s ability to understand the uncomfortable truth of systemic racism, misogyny, homophobia and other forms of hate that have unfortunately found their way into our sports programs.”

— Richard Lapchick, Ph.D., often called the “racial conscience of sports”, Founder of Northeastern University’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society, Director, University of Central Florida, The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES), President, The Institute for Sport and Social Justice.

“We are writing in support of the proposed amendment to M.G.L.c. 71, s.37 O, “An Act to Remodel Public School Athletics through Social Emotional Learning.” This important bill encourages and supports schools in implementing social and emotional learning curricula in middle and high school athletic programs, addressing negative coaching and team cultures while creating safe and supportive environments.

As you know, the mission of the Social Emotional Learning Alliance for Massachusetts (SEL4MA) is to advance and support effective, equity-focused SEL policies and practices in all schools and communities in Massachusetts. It is our vision that adoption of SEL policies and practices will allow for Massachusetts schools and community education-serving groups to be centers of safe, caring and supportive activity where youth and adults are empathetic, resilient, civically engaged and culturally aware and responsive, and develop the skills to solve problems, manage emotions and form positive relationships with others.

Public school athletics can do much to advance this mission. School athletic programs play a central role in the lives of many young people in our Commonwealth. And the cultures set in athletics programs impact the lives of countless young people—both those who participate in sports and those who do not.

We strongly urge all Massachusetts legislators to support this bill.”

— Jim Vetter, Executive Director, Social Emotional Learning Alliance for Massachusetts (SEL4MA.org)

“The Massachusetts School Psychologists Association (MSPA) would like to express our support for the An Act to Remodel Public School Athletics through Social Emotional Learning pending legislation. As school psychologists, we understand the importance of social emotional learning (SEL). Research supports the immediate and long-term positive impact that SEL skills can have on student wellness, educational outcomes, and post-secondary success.

Embedding SEL into athletics is a natural fit, as participation and success in sports often requires each of the five SEL competencies outlined by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). Requiring that DESE publish guidelines for the implementation of an SEL curriculum in sports will help ensure that athletic programs are safe, supportive, and protective environments that will enhance mental health and academic outcomes for students.”

— The MSPA Executive Board – Ashley Niggl , Matthew DuBois, Andrew Nickerson, Samantha Rivers, Dana Engle, Andra Amador.

“Social and emotional learning has always been a cornerstone of healthy child and youth development, and since the global Coronavirus Pandemic, the need for such programming has only increased. All stakeholders who work with children should be knowledgeable and trained in SEL best practices and utilizing this body of knowledge with athletic teams is only common sense.”

— Elizabeth Englander, Ph.D., Executive Director, Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center, Founding Member, Social & Emotional Research Consortium, Bridgewater State University.

“I write this letter in support of an Act to Remodel Public School Athletics through Social Emotional Learning (S.247/H.516)

Far too often young people experience abuse at the hands of their athletic coaches. Sometimes it might be verbal abuse and other times it can escalate to physical or sexual abuse that leaves a life-long impact. As a youth, I experience such abuse myself and I saw it happening again as a parent when my kids played youth sports. It is time to stop this cycle!

Beyond stopping bad things, this legislation will help more young people grow into thriving and successful adults. It’s been my experience of managing people and teams that social and emotional intelligence is a huge factor in how well someone can do their job. Any education that has young people learning these skills is a plus for our communities.”

— Joe Kriesberg, Boston, MA, CEO of MassINC, Former President of the Mass Assoc. of Community Development Corporations.

“It’s not sports per se that builds vital character traits, including appreciation for others, the capacity to work in teams and persistence. But sports when guided by thoughtful social and emotional learning curriculum can help build these vital capacities. These curricula can also reduce all sorts of harmful behaviors and biases among both coaches and children. I support An Act to Remodel Public School Athletics through Social Emotional Learning (S.247/HD.686).”

— Richard Weissbourd, Ed.D.
Senior Lecturer and Faculty Director, Making Caring Common, Harvard Graduate School of Education.

“I am writing to support MA Senate Docket # 337 and MA House Docket # 686, An Act to Remodel Public School Athletics through Social Emotional Learning. Unfortunately in the past few years we have seen multiple examples of bullying and disrespectful, even hateful behavior during school athletics in Massachusetts. It is time to implement primary prevention so that all our athletes understand the importance of safe, supportive bias-free team cultures. As a pediatrician with 40 years of experience and as former chair of the Mass Chapter AAP Child Mental Health Task Force, I am writing to express my strong support for passage of this bill.” — Dr. Yogman, retired Chair of the Massachusetts American Academy of Pediatrics Child Mental Health Task Force and past Chair of the National American Academy of  Pediatrics Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health.

“There are few better opportunities for children to grow emotionally and socially than through sports. Each season and every sport offer young people the opportunity to develop motor skills,  emotional regulation, planning, partnerships, mastery, and resilience and to experience diversity, disappointment, success and belonging. The adults that coach our vulnerable young people need to understand that these skills are critical to success in life. Many need to be taught how to facilitate this aspect of the game.

‘An Act to Remodel Public School Athletics through Social Emotional Learning’ brings youth sports to a new level at a time when our young people need this lift.”

— Nicholas Covino, President, William James College, Training students in careers in mental health, behavior health and organizational leadership, Newton MA.

“Doc Wayne Youth Services extends our full support to the amendment to M.G.L.c. 71, s.37O, “An Act to Remodel Public School Athletics through Social Emotional Learning.” Through the establishment of evidence-based guidelines for school districts, this proposed amendment will advance the incorporation of social-emotional skill development into school sports programs.

This past year, a new report revealed that nearly 20% of Massachusetts youth (aged 3-17) experienced anxiety or depression, ranking second highest in the United States. Doc Wayne mental health clinicians have used sports-based therapy as a medium for positive youth development in the Greater Boston area since 2002. Sports help youth to develop communication skills, coping strategies, and self-confidence that both heal and protect mental health.

This amendment will encourage school districts to harness the power of sport to foster mental resilience, contributing to student well-being and impacting society for decades. Doc Wayne is proud to extend our support to s.37 O, which furthers our mission of leveling the playing field of mental health.”

— Rebekah Roulier, LMHC, Deputy Director, Doc Wayne Youth Services, Inc., Serving Eastern Massachusetts with a mission of fusing sport and therapy to heal and strengthen at-risk youth.

“This letter is in support of an Act to Remodel Public School Athletics through Social Emotional Learning (S.247/H.516), an amendment to the Anti-Bullying Law, M.G.L.c.71.

We support this bill because we have been advocating for social emotional learning (SEL) for many years and this legislation offers a chance to continue that support in a new area of education.”

— Beth Kontos, President, American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts.

“This amendment will encourage school districts to ensure that their sports programs optimize the social and emotional skills of students by encouraging coaches to align with best practices for students well being. Research has taught us that attending to students’ social and emotional needs in sports as in every other area school achievement helps them be better in their sports. Games are played with head, heart, and body. A discouraged, dejected, derided, highly anxious student athlete cannot perform to his or her potential.”

— Maurice Elias, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, Director, Rutgers Social Emotional/Character Development Lab, Co-Director, Academy for SEL in Schools.

“I believe that this proposed Act is aligned with an extraordinary body of empirical research. This proposed Act will promote students physical as well as mental health.”

— Jonathan Cohen, PhD. President Emeritus, National School Climate Center: Educating Minds and Hearts Because the Three Rs’s Are Not Enough, Are Not Enough, Adjunct Professor in Psychology and Education, Teachers College, Columbia University in the City of New York.

“For 25 years the Urban Assembly has stood for innovation within public education and our commitment to experiences that enhance social emotional development of our youth remains undiminished. Sports teams are no exception. As athletes move up the competitive ladder, it is how they handle the big moments and how they come together as teammates during adversity that play the largest role in outcomes. This is the essence of social-emotional competence. For these reasons, I support this amendment to c. 71 as a positive and productive step forward in helping youth toward greater success in their sports as well as toward a healthier adolescence and adulthood.”

— David Adams, CEO, The Urban Assembly, New York City.

“As a nonprofit dedicated to helping children thrive emotionally, socially, and academically through research-based strategies such as high quality social emotional learning instruction, we commend your proposal to support integrating such strategies and instruction in public school athletics… Additionally, social emotional learning promotes a positive school climate and thus, integrating the development of these skills and strategies in students’ athletics will further enhance such efforts and provide students with more safe and positive environments in and out of school.”

— The Committee for Children, since 1979, a global non-profit that champions the safety and well-being of children through social emotional learning.