As a six-time Olympic gold medalist in track and field, Allyson Felix remembers sports being a big part of her life while growing up in the Los Angeles area.
“I’m not where I am today without getting outside as a kid,” Felix said at the 2017 track world championship in London. “It didn’t matter if we were playing tag in our neighborhood or playing basketball for local clubs. Movement was always encouraged.”
Many kids today grow up with the same experience as Felix. However, some young athletes are not able to have access to organized sports due to financial constraints. Many across sports are working to address this challenge, aiming to make sure each kid has a chance to showcase his or her talents on the playing field.
With just about any organized sport, there are significant costs associated. These can come from equipment, association fees, traveling to tournaments, etc. A 2017 Time magazine article stated that the average cost for a child to play baseball or softball for one year in the U.S. is a $4,044. Lacrosse’s average was nearly $8,000.
These skyrocketing costs can result in a lot of stress for parents and children. With that in mind, some people are stepping up to make sure children get that youth sports experience everyone should have access to.
One of those organizations is called Good Sports. This non-profit’s goal is to give kids the equipment and apparel to be able to play youth sports. They work both with Fortune 500 companies and directly with underserved communities.
“(Youth sports) has become a pay-to-play industry,” Melissa Harper, the CEO of the organization, told Front Office Sports. “So, there are very few programs at any level that you can sign the child up for without some sort of participation fee.”
Good Sports' work shows up in different forms. The group relies on support from partner suppliers to donate equipment. Good Sports then gives that out to needy communities.
Along with that, Good Sports is proactive in getting corporations to do philanthropic work in the form of getting athletes more involved. The list of companies Good Sports has worked with includes Target, Dr. Pepper Snapple Group and ESPN. Over the past 15 years, Good Sports has donated more than $26 million in new sports equipment across the country.
“We teamed up because we really have the same goal to give more kids across the country a chance to get out and play,” Shawna Jackson, a philanthropy analyst at Dr. Pepper Snapple, told Front Office Sports. “We know kids want to get involved in organized sports, whether it be schools or their communities, but sometimes there’s an issue of lack of budget and it can be cost prohibitive.”
With more kids getting involved in sports, more have the chance to end up like Felix. That might not mean being a decorated Olympic athlete. It may just mean getting the all-important social experience that comes with playing sports.
“Honestly, sports did more for me socially than athletically,” Felix said during the world championships, “Learning how teammates can lift you higher, make you faster, that was vital. Also, just running around connected me with friends. It teaches empathy.”
From GameChanger and Ryan Williamson
Also check out Bringing Back Free Play In Youth Sports