Have you ever wondered why soccer is the most popular sport in the world? The answer, while layered, can be found in the simplicity of the sport itself: all you need is a round object. “High barriers for entry” sports make it harder for kids from struggling communities to get involved due to the financial requirements and expensive equipment needed to play.
So when a sports organization like the United States Auto Club (USAC) reaches out to kids who do not normally have the opportunity to experience or see a sport like car racing … it’s a big deal and demonstrates the USAC’s commitment to removing barriers so that all kids, regardless of where they live, get the chance to play.
On Friday, April 12th Coaching Corps joined USAC with 17 middle school students from the Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA) program at their Quarter Midget (youth) Division national race. As the only people at the track, these special guests had the opportunity to tour the facility, have dinner in the bleachers while watching the drivers practice, hear about the sport of car racing from USAC staff and three drivers and sit in a race car.
The three USAC youth drivers that spoke to the kids from HOLA included: Mandy, age 11; Zane, age 11; and London, age 12. Each spoke of how they started racing, which turned out they all had family members or close friends of the family involved, and they spoke about what they had learned from racing thus far. Zane put it best when he said, “It’s not about the money. It’s about talent.” He went on to speak about how the most talented (read: hardest working) drivers could get sponsorship and support from various organizations and supporters. London explained that he learned more from racing than any traditional sport he played prior: the ability to focus on one task for a longer period of time and how to deal with unexpected challenges.
The kids from HOLA had a fun time visiting the USAC Race Club, and for all but one of them it was their first time ever being to a racetrack. Silvia Velazquez, HOLA Bridges Middle School director and event day chaperon said, “It was definitely a new experience for everyone, including myself. Many of them [HOLA kids] returned on Monday and shared what they had learned with their peers.”
Overall, the first ever Kids in Racing Event was a great success. With the generosity of USAC and HOLA, we were able to successfully introduce a group of youth to a new sport and showed them that kids their age are doing it! The next Kids in Racing Event will be at the Atlanta Motor Speedway on Friday, August 30th where the Emery College Coaching Corps Chapter will bring a group of kids from the local Boys & Girls Club.