When a parent doesn’t know how to do something, there’s a great likelihood that his kid won’t know how to do it, either.
There are a lot of parents out there who don’t have a successful background in education – they’re functionally illiterate, can’t do much more than basic math, don’t look at issues systematically, and show little interest in the world outside their own. As somebody who has spent the past two decades in education, it’s no surprise to me that so many kids struggle to succeed or they simply give up. Without support from home, a student’s education will most likely wither.
Similarly, a growing number of kids today have never experienced fishing, camping, hunting, or other outdoor-related recreation. And I mean never.
Granted, there are a lot fewer places accessible today than there were 40 years ago when I was busy leaving my footprints along Lake Waco’s shoreline. Access to much of the lake has been restricted by rusty pipe fences and park admission fees, making an afternoon trip to the lake for a cookout, swimming, fishing, or exploring, hardly an option for a lot of Waco-area families.
So instead of getting hands-on learning experiences in the outdoors, a lot of Central Texas kids spend their weekend days and nights hanging out with friends and looking for something to entertain them – and too often, the entertainment options they choose are dangerous or get them into trouble.
For the past two decades, the number of young people nationwide who participate in outdoor-related activities like hunting, fishing, and camping has sharply declined, and if the trend continues, within a few generations, these traditions, once a way of life for many Americans, will largely fade away.
Outdoor enthusiasts who want to preserve these sports for future generations should start putting their efforts, time, and money into turning this trend around. Preaching to the choir is a good thing for the congregation, but now’s the time to start adding new voices to the choir and teaching them the songs.
There are some excellent resources for kids who want to improve their reading skills or learn how to set up a tent, but for real learning to take hold, a knowledgeable adult’s guidance is necessary on top of the Khan Academy or YouTube videos.
The late Central Texas fishing legend Charlie Pack used to host a free fishing day at a group of lakes on an area ranch every year, and even kids with no prior fishing experience could get outdoors and be successful. Pack, along with numerous agencies, companies, and groups, teamed up to offer good fishing, free food and drinks, and a family-oriented experience that left a positive mark on kids and colored how they think about fishing.
Likewise, area outdoorsman Travis Bailey does the same thing for people with physical and mental disabilities through his annual fishing event at the Heart O’ Texas Fairgrounds. People from all over the state come for the trout-fishing tank, music, food and drinks, dancing, carnival-style games, and more – and participants and volunteers alike go away with great memories.
There’s a saying that I try to live by that goes something like, “If you can’t help a million people, then just help a few.” For most of us, it feels like we’re working 5 full-time jobs and have a full page of to-do’s on our weekend chore lists, and organizing events of the magnitude of Pack’s and Bailey’s is beyond most people’s capability.
But taking a few kids out to catch some fish once in a while is something that most outdoorsmen can work into their schedules. Even setting up a tent in the back yard, grilling some burgers, and falling asleep looking at the stars can seem like you’re 20 miles out in the country.
I remember the names of every adult who bothered to spend time with me when I was a kid. Whether it was a fishing trip, campout, shooting BB holes in cans, helping me refine my open-field tackling technique, taking me out for pizza, or any number of other experiences, they probably never knew how great it made me feel. But I remember.
We can all be one of those people to a kid.