Get teens fishing — we’ll cover the cost

Participation in rough-and-tumble sports is a great way to get high schoolers exercising. But there are many students who want a different type of adrenaline rush than getting tackled on the football field or tossed in the air while cheering for their team. For those students, The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) strongly suggests fishing — and there is even funding available to get a team started or add members to an existing team.

The FWC, along with its partners the Fishing League Worldwide Foundation and The Bass Federation’s Student Angler Federation, are offering a grant from the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation to encourage the creation and success of high school fishing teams and clubs in Florida. This partnership places a particular emphasis on establishing new high school angling teams and supporting existing ones in schools with diverse student populations.

The program will provide grants of up to $500 to assist with expenses related to fishing team or club-sponsored tournaments, team jerseys, insurance, and education for novice anglers. Supported teams and clubs will also partner with the FWC, FLW Foundation and The Bass Federation to complete a conservation project. The program not only benefits the students, but program participants and their families will receive education on conservation programs, aquatic and marine biology, and boating and angler safety.

High school can be incredibly stressful, and getting on or near the water to cast a line is a great stress reliever. Fishing encourages focusing on just one task at a time, which can give the brain the break it needs to process and store helpful information. Fishing also promotes mindfulness, because being aware of how fish habitats and changing weather and water conditions affect fish behavior improves fishing success.

Fishing doesn’t exclude the ladies. According to a recent report released by the RBFF and the Outdoor Foundation, of the 46 million Americans who fish today, more than one-third of them are women. In fact, the 2013 Florida High School State Champions were a female and male team from Bartow High School, and Tennessee’s Bethel University became the first college to offer a female angler a scholarship in 2010.

High school fishing teams and clubs do not have to be comprised of students from a single school. Students from several schools may come together to form a team or club, and fishing is one of the few sports where both male and female students can compete on the same team, at the same level.

There are countless benefits for both male and female students competing in team sports, such as building confidence, teaching respect and contributing to better health and stronger academics. But there are added benefits for female teammates competing alongside their male counterparts, such as an enhanced image of themselves and a greater overall resiliency, according to Jeffrey Rhoades, author of The Joy of Youth Sports: Creating the Best Youth Sports Experience for Your Child. Plus, the team camaraderie offers benefits to both sexes, as they enhance their social skills and learn to view one another as a friend and not an intimidating person.

High schoolers can also earn college scholarships for bass fishing. According to Bassmaster.com, there are nine colleges in Florida that have fishing teams affiliated with the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series: Daytona State College, Florida Gulf Coast University, University of Florida, Florida State University, Indian River State College, Polk State College, Seminole State College of Florida, University of Central Florida and University of North Florida. The University of Florida even made the Fishing League Worldwide list of the “Top 25 Bass Fishing Colleges.”

To date, there have been five high school fishing grants awarded. The first five grant award recipients are: Academy of Environmental Science, Crystal River; Lake Wales High School, Lake Wales; Pasco Middle School, Dade City; South Dade High School, Homestead; and Space Coast Junior/Senior High School, Cocoa.

There is still ample grant funding available, so interested parties are encouraged to apply soon for consideration. Online applications should be submitted at www.flwfishing.com/foundation.

For more information about this program, email Amber Nabors at Amber.Nabors@MyFWC.com. For more information about the Fishing League Worldwide Foundation, go to www.flwfishing.com. For information about The Bass Federation’s Student Angler Federation, go to www.highschoolfishing.org. Information on the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation is available at www.takemefishing.org, select “Corporate” at the bottom of the page.

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