By Nolan Ortiz
Jake Olson, Long Snapper from the University of Southern California
Sarah Robinson, Brotherhood Crusade Youth Member
Sophey Carbajal, High School Senior, LB Poly
SaraJoy Salib, LA84 SAMbassador, Water Polo & Diving Athlete at Occidental College
Kendall Stier, Amabassador, Angel City Sports
Moderator: Baron Davis, Two-time NBA All-Star; CEO – Baron Davis Enterprises
The panel surveyed the five panelists on youth sports’ impact on their lives, both on and off the field.
On the opportunity sports plays in our lives
Carbajal opened up the panel by stating how sports has allowed her to drive her personal traits into successful achievement. “I’ve always been an action person. I’d call myself ‘fidgety,'” she said. “Sports has provided me with an outlet to be able to be active and enabled me to show other I’m stronger than they may think I am.”
Stier added that sports has shaped how she views herself and how other people think of her, and said that sports provides an opportunity to forget their problems and play together.
On what ‘team’ means to them
For Salib, being on a team means “an opportunity to connect with someone on a different level and that you really have to look past yourself and put your best interests aside and put your energy into the other people on the team with you.”
For Olson, who played football and joined the USC Football team despite being unable to see, being a part of the team presents him with a chance to show off his talent, earn the respect of his peers, and be seen as just another player. “In those moments, I really feel there is no difference between me and any other player out there,” he said. “Having the chance to do your job gives you a sense of purpose.”
The responsibility and accountability of being part of a team also comes into play. Robinson explained how basketball helped her keep her grades up by giving her a specific goal to work toward. It also helped teach her how to communicate more effectively with others. “You have to know how to adjust to work [with your teammates],” Robinson said. “Maybe it was their first time having people that were there for them and uplifting them. Just being able to understand where they’re coming from.”
On the LA84 Foundation’s impact on your time as an athlete
For Carbajal, an LA84 grant to the YMCA of Long Beach Youth Institute opened doors for her and fellow youth in her community to play sports they otherwise never would have had a chance to play.
“The only time I had ever seen archery [before] was watching the Hunger Games,” she said.
“I said ‘I’m never going to do one of those’, but then I found out we’re going to go do archery and was like ‘I’m going to be Katniss Everdeen!’ When someone would get a bullseye, you would see their face light up.
The LA84 Foundation’s Learn To Swim programs in Los Angeles City pools have also opened doors. Among the youth that benefited from these programs was Salib, who receives a scholarship and later became a city lifeguard. Now, Salib is a freshman at Occidental College and is on the school’s varsity diving and water polo teams. ‘Had they [LA84] not sponsored the program, I probably wouldn’t be here at this moment.”
On what changes we want to see ahead of the LA 2028 Olympic and Paralympic Games
Robinson: More social places for youth to go and spend time at, with an emphasis on affordability.
Carbajal: More diversity and acceptance in sport. “Some people see a star athlete and say ‘oh, it’s that kind of person.’ But people are more than just star athletes [or any label].”
Salib: More promotion about the Games to ensure youth know they are coming. “They [youth] should have the authentic sports that are accessible to them, and should get an opportunity to see where it is they fit and find their sport.”
Stier: “I would like to see these simply three words for people to being saying: That the Olympics AND THE PARALYMPICS are coming to LA.”
Olson: The way people view disabled athletes. “We need to start… seeing these athletes as what they are: athletes.”