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Beaver County Times Article Be Nice Mental Health Awareness


CHIPPEWA TWP ― For young ballplayers across the country, the summer is a time where they can continue to develop their skills and abilities on the diamond. Whether it be learning a new pitch, improving a swing or becoming smoother in the field, most hope to use travel ball organizations to learn more about the game they love.

For the players on 30 teams at a travel softball tournament in Beaver County last weekend, along with their parents and coaches, a different type of education was provided ― one far more important than anything that can be taught on the field. Coaches and parents from Valley Rage softball paired up with "Be Nice," a mental health organization based out of Michigan, to provide education and training on suicide prevention and good mental health practices at their annual "Rage in the Valley" tournament at Chippewa Field.

"This is something we've been wanting to do for quite awhile," Valley Rage Softball President Anthony Ross told the Times. "At first, I didn't know who to contact or where to start. But once we figured that out, things got going quickly. I was really happy with how everything went."

It all started weeks earlier when the softball organization became a customer of "be nice," which resulted in numerous coaches and parents receiving valuable training on suicide prevention. The next step, according to Jenn Jones, an Ellwood City and organization parent who spearheaded the effort, was teaching what they learned through an event.

"We already had the softball tournament scheduled," Jones, who is a social worker, said. "We thought this would be the perfect place to show what the 'be nice,' program had to offer, along with show the valuable things that we learned."

To go along with days of competition on the field, there were booths that provided literature and information to all in attendance. Both Ross and Jones also spoke before the games began, stressing the importance of proper mental health awareness and strategies.

The topic of suicide prevention hits close to home for many area softball players following the tragic passing of former South Fayette and James Madison University standout catcher Lauren Burnett, who took her life at the age of 20 in April. "There were girls from our area who played travel ball with Lauren," Jones said. "It became apparent to Anthony, and others in charge that youth organizations could benefit from this type of training. These conversations are important, and the earlier you have them, the more likely you'll have a positive outcome." 

Valley Rage is the first athletic program to use the "Be Nice" program in Pennsylvania. Following a successful event, Ross says he hopes to see other youth sports organizations take similar steps.

"We just want the kids to know that there is always someone they can talk to," Ross said. "If they can't talk to their parents, then they can go to their coaches, or their friends, or a mentor. We want them to know that we're going to have someone who will be there for them. And we hope other organizations will see this and want to do the same."

Contact Noah Hiles at Follow him on twitter @_NoahHiles.

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