Teaching Tolerance One Goal at a Time

By Kevin Eisenmann

"Bullying Bidane is just one of the many characters that students get to know as they experience SportSmarts, a conflict resolution program developed through a partnership between UCSF Department of Pediatrics’ Primary Care Track at Mount Zion and America SCORES Bay Area.

“It’s important to teach students early on that in any conflict, there are different types of intent,” said Amy Williams, MD, UCSF pediatric resident and chief collaborator for SportSmarts. “We want them to think about the situation and where the other person is coming from before reacting.”

The SportSmarts curriculum, developed by a psychologist from UC Santa Barbara, provided a framework to teach kids how to avoid conflict at home, in school and on the playground. UCSF pediatricians had been looking for ways to address such violence in San Francisco.

A partnership with America SCORES made sense in this effort since the national organization works to inspire urban youth to lead healthy lives through soccer and poetry in the communities UCSF was hoping to reach. SportSmarts began in 2012 as a pilot project in six San Francisco schools: Marshall, Bryant, John Muir, Cleveland, J. Serra and E.R. Taylor.

SportSmarts culminates in a “Ref-Free Jamboree,” where students demonstrate the skills they’ve learned by resolving conflicts on the soccer field without the help of a referee. They also perform skits and poetry with students from neighboring schools.

“Participating in youth sports affords so many life lessons,” Williams said. “This curriculum helps coaches and teachers leverage that opportunity and really make the most of it.”"

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