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Eric Garcetti says he wouldn’t be the mayor he is today without the Encino Little League

He believes team sports help youth find their identity

The LA84 Foundation held a youth sports summit on Thursday at the JW Marriott LA LIVE, and Mayor Eric Garcetti, trying to bring the 2024 Olympic Games to Los Angeles, made it clear he understands the importance of youth sports in the development of young men and young women.

"I literally wouldn't be here without youth sports," Garcetti said. "Encino Little League, playing basketball, I wrestled _ I did things for me that really shaped who I am."

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He explained life as mayor.

"People ask me what it's like to be mayor," he said. "Imagine going up to [Mount] Everest and then down to Death Valley like every hour. Something amazing happens and then boom _ something tragic happens. Somebody says you're the most incredible person in the world, then somebody is in your face, 'I've never met somebody so bad as you.'

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"If I didn't have the experience of sports when some days you win and some days you lose but as long as you keep showing up and playing hard, I wouldn't have the resilience to see this through."

There were panels of experts and athletes discussing issues such as girls participating in youth sports; solutions for dropouts in youth sports and how Los Angeles' bid to bring the 2024 Olympic Games to the area could benefit the community.

One goal is universal access to youth who want to participate in sports. Another suggestion was to teach youth athletes about "moral courage" through "moral rehearsal," showing them how to act when presented with examples.

Luc Robitaille, who had a 19-year NHL career and is president of buisness operations for the Kings, reinforced the importance of coaches.

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"Any of us who had the opportunity to play sports will always say, 'There was this one coach that said one word that made a difference in my life.' A lot of times we really don't listen our parents or I see a lot of parents and they'll say to the coach, 'Can you tell my son this?' because they'll listen to you.

"That can make all the difference in the world if it's done right with the right coaching and let the kids have fun and enjoy themselves," Robitaille said.

For the latest on high school sports, follow @LATSondheimer on Twitter

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