Participation in youth sports can teach children valuable lessons about teamwork, leadership and confidence they can translate into other aspects of their lives as they grow. Former professional football player and radio host, philanthropist and entrepreneur Jarrett Payton has made it his life’s mission to support youth athletics and combat bullying among teens.

Mr. Payton, son of Hall of Fame Chicago Bear Walter Payton, founded the Jarrett Payton Foundation which supports programs in schools including his most popular anti-bullying program, PROJECT: NO BULL. Mr. Payton will participate on a panel titled “Empowering Teenagers” at the 2017 Chicago Sports Summit on Oct. 4, hosted by Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush and sponsored by Athletico.

Here, Mr. Payton discusses challenges teens face today and opportunities presented through athletics, and how sports can serve as a unifying agent.

Q: What do you see as the biggest challenge facing teens today?

Jarrett Payton: I have spent time in about 60 to 70 schools in the Chicagoland area over the past few years, sharing my message with teens and trying to help them understand we have more in common than we have differences between us. The thing students are dealing with today is bullying. It used to be that kids went to school and might get bullied, but then they could go home and get away from that. Social media has changed bullying so now kids can’t get away from it.

We’re at a whole new level where it’s not just kids just name calling; they’re beating each other up and posting about it on social media. It’s a different world than when I was a teenager, but I can still understand where they are coming from. I understand social media and encourage kids to make better decisions when it comes to that.

Q: What have you learned about teamwork through your experience as an athlete?

JP: The biggest thing I’ve learned about having people from different walks of life come together for one common goal, whether it’s to win a game or a championship, is that it’s a real unifying experience. That got me prepared for life after sports and ready for the real world. Sports can also teach hard work, determination and teamwork.