Does playing sports help you succeed in life?
The answer appears to be yes. A recent study by the Women Athletes Business Network shows that a female executives are more likely to have played sports growing up than women in non-leadership positions; another study suggests that men and women who play sports show “significantly higher levels of leadership, self-confidence and self-respect.” In a recent IVY Salon Night, Olympic Medalist and co-owner of the WNBA’s Seattle Storm, Ginny Gilder, explained that the life skills she learned in rowing were what helped her achieve her biggest goals outside of rowing.
Is it possible, then, to widen the effects of sports to populations who have the least access to them?
Enter IVY Chicago Member Montana Butsch. After experiencing the personal and professional benefits of rowing at a high level, he championed crew as a form of social impact. His brain child, the Chicago Training Center, is an after-school program that introduces low-income, minority teens to competitive rowing. By teaching teamwork, perseverance, and performance at a high level, the program teaches kids the tools they need to succeed in all aspects of live.
IVY: Why is rowing more suited to teaching life skills than other types of sport?
Rowing supports individuals who are willing to work hard and collaboratively. It will not support those who are too individualistic or egocentric. You’re forced to learn the tenants of teamwork, practice the ability to set high level goals, and think as a group instead of as an individual. And you are taught all of this on a daily basis. Since the kids start rowing at such a young age, they learn and practice these life lessons in tandem with the sport which is arguably more important than sport itself.
In a sport like basketball, an individual could carry a team due to innate talent alone. However, that person may not be a high-functioning individual outside of that arena, because he wasn’t part of a successful team.
IVY: Who do you recruit for your program?
We’re focusing on Chicago’s South and West side, where a lot of the parents don’t have high level degrees and where rowing is definitely not part of regular conversation. The kids that I recruit probably don’t subscribe to the outlets we’ve been featured in. They’re not going to be subscribing to The New York Times or watching the nightly news. There’s no way for these kids to know that we’re out there. So, I have to go to them. 90% of the kids we have come from the relationships we create with people and schools, and word of mouth.
IVY: What kinds of life lessons do the kids learn?
Often, we’ll take kids to different companies in downtown Chicago for a day, so they can spend time with the employees and learn what everyone does. We want them to know what kinds of jobs exist, and what other people do for a living. One time back in our earlier years, one of the kids saw an African American guy in a suit downtown and thought he must be walking to court, for prosecution. Other kids have never been to lakefront at all in Chicago because their parents had never taken them. CTC is an opportunity for them to peek behind the veil. We have connections to fill someone of those gaps.
IVY: What is your most audacious life goal?
I want this program to be sustainable! The participants in our program are in a position of strength, because higher education institutions want the kind of kids we have—in a way we are helping produce personal educational commodities. I want our kids to know that, and leverage their background and make use of our program so they are very desirable applicants. We want them to break through the glass ceiling and get into the Ivy League. I want the program to be replicable—so, I want us to go to St. Louis, Baltimore, or maybe New Orleans. It doesn’t matter, as long as there’s an urban population that needs this. And, of course, a river.
IVY: How can IVY Members help support you?
Obviously, funding is huge—and that usually comes through relationships and conversations, both at an individual and a corporate level.
We also love bringing on mentors. We can find lots of ways for them to get involved.
If anyone has a rowing background, we have many volunteer coaches who come into coach one day a week. One thing I should mention about this is that we don’t have a meritocracy when it comes to our coaching. Everyone has previously rowed at an exceptionally high level. We let them drop in once every week, so these kids have access to high level rowing aficionados. The peer groups they’re competing against usually don’t.
Lastly, we’d always love to grow our Board. We’re always looking for people to get involved!
Montana Butsch is an IVY Member (Chicago). Connect and collaborate with him here! To learn more about IVY, please visit www.ivy.com.