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Know of any youth who have won an award or have a recent accomplishment? Send in your news on youth to Shephali J. Rele, Khaas Baat, 18313 Cypress Stand Circle, Tampa, FL 33647 or e-mail Be sure to include school name, grade and age.
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By Teesta Sullivan

The success of young athletes such as Mia Hamm and Tiger Woods has spawned a new mentality about youth athletics. Not only have children begun entering competitive sports at much younger ages, over the past decade, but they also are beginning to “specialize” in one sport, and play it all year-round.

Some parents see promise in their young child’s athletic prowess, and begin daydreaming of securing an athletic scholarship for college. These parents may begin to heavily invest time, money and emotional currency into their budding young athletes. Unfortunately the fruits of much of this labor can include increased stress injuries and skyrocketing drop out rates among teen athletes.

Teesta Sullivan
What if Jared truly has a fantastic swing, and has been likened to the next Sosa? College is expensive. Should parents ignore their child’s scholarship potential? Dan Doyle, executive director of the Institute for International Sports at the University of Rhode Island and author of The Encyclopedia of Sports Parenting, provides important statistics in understanding how difficult the scholarship race can become.

Doyle’s research indicates that while about 475,000 fourth-grade boys currently play organized basketball, only 87,000 high school seniors continue to play. Of those 87,000 high school hopefuls, only 1,560 will be good enough to secure Division I college scholarships (This is less than .33 percent of those ambitious fourth-graders.) Doyle states that the odds against aspiring soccer players are even greater.

With parents coming under increased pressure to introduce their children to competitive athletics at ages as young as three, it is important that they understand the developmental windows that kids travel through in these early years. Young children may not be coordinated enough for the rigors of sports. Children mature at different rates. Their tender limbs and joints are designed for play, not repetitive movements.

What should a parent do? Athletics can be an excellent way to develop motor skills, experience teamwork and teach the importance of goal setting with children. There are many lessons in sportsmanship and socialization to be learned through sports as well.

Additionally, with the surge of interest in children’s sports, there is a myriad of both sports and teams from which to choose. Mighty Mites hockey, T-ball, Tiny Tots football… A parent can feel they are depriving their child of important life experiences, if they do not enroll them in sports programs.

As parents, it is easy for us to take care of the external needs of our children, such as feeding and clothing them and making sure they have enough sleep. It is much more difficult to take care of the needs that we can not see, like creating positive challenges to foster appropriate brain development. While sports activities can provide excellent environments for both physical and mental stimulation, parents would be wise to consider the advantages of enrichment education programs during the developmental years.

According to pediatric neurobiologist Harry Chugani, “Early experiences are so powerful, they can completely change the way a person turns out. The brain develops on a “use it or lose it” principle. There are critical periods when the brain must be used in order for certain kinds of development to take place.” It is estimated that as much as 50 percent of the structure of a child’s brain is developed before the age of 5, and that by age 8, more than 80 percent of the “wiring” in the brain that facilitates information processing is complete. This is a strong argument for focusing on brain development over sports activities at the early ages.

With or without competitive sports, children can be successful; however, you cannot make the same claim about education. Mia Hamm, one of America’s most decorated young athletes, did not begin playing soccer until she was 7. The early years should be spent nurturing the natural curiosities of our children, stimulating strong brain development that leads to successful ac academic performance while simultaneously encouraging play and fun. Soccer can wait, better to educate.

Teesta Sullivan has a JD, a MSH and B.A. in Psychology. She is the area developer for FasTracKids and also president of Legendary Beginnings Inc., an authorized licensee of FasTracKids. She can be reached at (813) 792-0077.

Story provided by AAKASH PATEL

Aaakash patel, left, is all smiles while posing with the Indian Prime Minister manmohan Singh, center, and Congressman Joe Wilson.
In 1993, India Abroad founder Gopal Raju realized that the professional success of Indian Americans did not translate into political influence. As a result, he kicked off the Indian American Center for Political Awareness (IACPA), a national non-profit organization.

In 1994, IACPA started the Washington Leadership Program (WLP) to introduce college students to the political process through Congressional internships. The idea was to offer students a first-hand look at the political process while receiving leadership training.

Each year, IACPA selects 16 students who participate in the eight-week summer program. The students receive two weeks of leadership training and a six-week internship with members of Congress. WLP has so far placed approximately 150 interns with more than 12 senators and 50 Congressman.

Aakash Patel, a Florida State University senior and graduate of Sickles High School in Tampa, just completed his internship with WLP. Patel was the first student selected from the Tampa Bay area in the program’s history. He interned with Congressman Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), former co-chair for the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans.

Here are some of Patel’s most memorable experiences from his summer in Washington, D.C.:

I will never forget the first day of my internship with Congressman Joe Wilson (R-S.C.). I arrived to work and began to do the usual intern office work. At around 5 p.m., Congressman Wilson was finished with his meetings. At 5:15, the internship coordinator asked me into the congressman’s office for an introduction. Congressman Wilson not only knew a little bit about me, but he started asking me questions about and the Tampa Bay area.

Ten minutes later, the congressman said it was time for him to give a speech at an event. He then looked at me and said “Would you like to come to this event with me.” The next thing I knew, we continued chatting as we were walking down the halls. We then entered the event and several people greeted him. Without hesitation, the congressman introduced me, to everyone who walked up to him. That is when I knew that I was placed in the right office.

Weeks went on in the office and continued to educate me on information that I needed to know. Everyone in the office became like a big family. Whether it was going to a baseball game, soccer game or attending a fundraiser, the staff in my office always invited me to events so I could see the different sides of the political spectrum.

Everyday was a new adventure. Some days, I was in the office answering phones and giving Capitol tours to constituents, while other days I was with the congressman at press conferences or hearings.

I attended some events with Manmohan Singh, the prime minister of India. I was fortunate enough to be in the VIP viewing area on the White House South Lawn at the official arrival ceremony of Prime Minister Singh with President Bush. I also attended the Joint Session of Congress to hear Singh’s address. After the Joint Session address, I was with Congressman Wilson at the House International Relations Committee meeting where Prime Minister Singh gave an informal testimony. After a few minutes of questioning by the members, the bell rang for Congressman to go vote, so the meeting was cut sort. I looked at my fellow WLP intern Parth and told him we should go get a picture. My camera was acting up so we were trying to fix it.

The next thing we know, Prime Minister Singh came to our side of the room and stuck out his hand right in front of me. I shook his hand and he looked at me straight in the eye and said, “You are the future and we in India are proud of you." I was in shock. Congressman Wilson also came over and said a few words about me to the prime minister. I couldn’t believe it. Then I, Congressman Wilson and Prime Minister Singh posed for a picture. That is one picture and one day in my life that I will never forget. After these eight weeks, I know now that I want to work and serve my community just as I have seen firsthand through Congressman Wilson.

Aakash Patel is a Political Science and English Literature double major at Florida State University. He is in his second term as a member of the Student Senate, and is an award-winning delegate on the traveling FSU Model United Nations team. Before his internship, Patel worked part time for three years as an editorial assistant for the St. Petersburg Times Capital Bureau. He also is a two-time recipient of the Florida Capitol Press Corps Journalism Scholarship and a recent graduate of the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s College Leadership Florida (Class VII) program.

Know of any youth who have won an award or have a recent accomplishment? Send in your news on youth to Shephali J. Rele, Khaas Baat, 18313 Cypress Stand Circle, Tampa, FL 33647 or e-mail Be sure to include school name, grade and age.

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