As a kid in California, New York Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia grew up wanting to be a baseball player. He accomplished that goal thanks in part to one specific program.
Sabathia is one of a dozen current MLB players who were a part of the league’s Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program. This program helps give boys and girls in underserved communities a chance to try the sport. It’s a program that has been around for about 30 years and reached approximately 2 million people in that time.
The RBI program is just one way MLB helps get more kids into its sports. Each professional sports league across the country is doing similar things to promote their respective sports.
Here are three ways in which pro sports leagues are working to get more people active and enjoying what sports have to offer.
Organizing Youth Tournaments
Outside of baseball, the NBA and WNBA have a similar setup with the Jr. NBA World Championship. Teams from around the world play in a tournament here in the U.S. The players get tough competition and even a chance to appear on ESPN.
Aside from just organizing the tournament, the two leagues have gotten some of their own involved. Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat and Candace Parker of the Los Angeles Sparks have served as ambassadors for the event.
“Basketball is a game of life lessons,” Wade told NBA.com. “That’s something I tell kids. You can learn so many things like teamwork and respect for one another.”
The National Women’s Hockey League has also taken an interest in the next generation of players in their sport. The league has started the Jr. NWHL. Girls’ hockey programs can sign up for this program to gain special access to NWHL resources and even meet some NWHL players.
Giving Everyone a Chance
In the NHL, each February is a celebration of sorts. Since 2017, the league has made February Hockey is For Everyone Month. This is a yearly celebration of hockey’s effort to make sure everyone, no matter what, has a chance to play hockey.
MLS has a similar initiative called Soccer For All. Both leagues want to make sure anyone who wants to play their sport can regardless of their background.
“The issue of human rights and being a Hockey Is For Everyone ambassador, it's bigger than just LGBTQ, but it's a big part of it," Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby told NHL.com. "It's something just to get awareness out there and make everyone feel comfortable.”
Supporting an Active Lifestyle
In the big scheme of things, most people will grow up playing sports but very few will actually get a chance to play at the professional level. Leagues like the NBA and NFL realize that and have started campaigns with a simpler mission: to get more kids outside and active.
“It feels great being able to give back to kid and help them be active,” Denver Broncos linebacker Todd Davis told NFL.com. “I know it’s not only impacted me in football but in my entire life.”
Though leagues making efforts to grow their own sports isn’t anything new, programs like these offer another avenue for kids to receive the benefits of playing a sport.
From GameChanger and Ryan Williamson
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