Industry Leaders Rally to Grow Youth Sports Participation; Project Play Summit 2020 Kicks Off

Aspen Institute’s Project Play 2024 group to focus on low-income youth, girls and community sports; multiple announcements to be made during four-day Summit

Washington, DC, Oct. 13, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Aspen Institute announced today a new four-year effort by 21 leading sport, health, media and other organizations to grow national sport participation and related metrics among youth. The initiative is called Project Play 2024, which mobilizes industry leaders to develop shared goals and take actions around making sports accessible to all children, regardless of race, gender, zip code or ability.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro will discuss the value of industry collaboration on accessible sports during a 1 pm ET panel today on the first day of Project Play Summit 2020, the nation’s premier gathering of leaders building healthy communities through sports. The Summit will be broadcast virtually Oct. 13-16 at Additional speakers include: U.S. soccer stars Alex Morgan and Crystal Dunn, six-time gold medalist Allyson Felix, Pro Football Hall of Famer Terrell Owens, bestselling author Michael Lewis, 17-time Paralympic medalist Tatyana McFadden, gymnastics gold medalist Laurie Hernandez, former NBA star Vince Carter, and U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland.

Project Play 2024 will focus on participation rates for kids through age 12, particularly low-income youth and girls, while consolidating efforts around how to bolster quality, affordable, community-based sport options. This is the second phase of the initiative, which launched in 2017 under the name Project Play 2020 and represented the first time that industry and nonprofit groups have come together to develop shared goals around growing sports participation and related metrics for youth.

The first phase of the initiative led to the creation of valuable resources (How to Coach Kids, Project Play Parent Checklists, Sport Sampling Checklists) and a major media awareness campaign (#DontRetireKid). New data from Project Play’s State of Play 2020 report showed some progress was being made in 2019 to grow overall sport participation rates, increase youth physical activity, and educate more coaches. However, the pandemic threatens to widen the gap for all children to access quality sports opportunities.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, only 23% of low-income youth ages 6-12 played sports on a regular basis, slightly up from a year earlier but far behind wealthier kids (49%), according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association. White kids (40%) played sports more regularly than Black (35%) and Hispanic (34%) children. Boys (39%) were more likely to regularly play sports than girls (32%).

The members of Project Play 2024 are: American College of Sports Medicine, Augusta Sportswear Brands, The DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation, ESPN, Hospital for Special Surgery, LeagueApps, Major League Baseball and Major League Baseball Players Association Youth Development Foundation, Major League Soccer, National Basketball Association, National Hockey League, National Lacrosse League, Nike, PGA of America, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, Sports Facilities Companies, Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), TeamSnap, Under Armour, U.S. Soccer Federation, U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee, and U.S. Tennis Association. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and PHICOR at the City University of New York are Technical Advisors.

“Collective impact works,” said Tom Farrey, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society Program, the backbone organization for Project Play. “Organizations from across sectors came together through Project Play 2020 and, guided by a theory of change, attacked a complex challenge from a variety of angles, delivering real results. Now, we take next steps with Project Play 2024, with members who can turn today’s crisis into tomorrow’s opportunity and help build a new state of play for youth in the U.S.”

With basketball, baseball, soccer, tennis and golf at the Project Play 2024 roundtable, the initiative now includes representatives from the top three team sports and top two individual sports played by youth ages 6 to 12, according to SFIA. Lacrosse and hockey are among the team sports that have grown the most over the past decade. Other members bring expertise in the areas of technology, consumer products, medicine and media.

Among the additional announcements being made this week at the Summit:

  • TeamSnap CEO and Founder Dave DuPont recently shared that as part of TeamSnap's commitment to supporting underserved youth athletes, the organization will contribute $1 million over the next three years to help ensure equal access to sports. Additional details can be found at in the coming weeks.
  • Earlier this year, Project Play and Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes ® Mission Tiger™ joined forces for The Great Middle School Sports Search, the first national search for the best middle school sports programs that aimed to find inclusive, quality programs that schools can adopt, regardless of available funding. On Oct. 14, the search finalists and winners will be announced and a best practices guide will be released at and The winning school will receive $10,000 and four finalists will each be awarded $2,500. The best practice guide shares innovative strategies used by middle schools across the country for educators and coaches to deploy in their schools.
  • The Susan Crown Exchange (SCE), Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) and Project Play will announce the Million Coaches Challenge, an effort that will train at least one million coaches in positive youth development by 2025. This national effort to train youth coaches was designed to capitalize on the simple but critical finding that, for kids who play sports, a good coach can be a transformational figure. Project Play is proud to join these partners to broadening the definition of good coaching to include positive youth development and social and emotional learning. In support of this effort, Project Play is offering free tools and resources for coaches at

  • With support from ESPN and Under Armour, Project Play is releasing a redesigned Teamwork Toolkit that will empower community leaders to build healthy communities through sports. This free, user-friendly, online platform supports data collection, building and mapping a local network and customized advocacy tools for quality sport access for children in their communities. Users can select from a menu of activities based on their community needs and priorities to support equitable sport experiences for all youth in their community.

  • TopYa! has made a “1% for Play” commitment to donate 1% of net revenue from future subscription products to Project Play, specifically to support the use and expansion of Teamwork Toolkit. Also, TopYa! will provide scholarships to at least 1% of its subscribers to access free content and coaching on the online platform.


Each day of the Project Play Summit, there will be a live Q&A with Tom Farrey (Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program) and Jeremy Goldberg (PLAY Sports Coalition). They will take audience questions from 12-15-12:45 pm ET about ideas to create a more sustainable youth sports model that Project Play wrote about here in its National State of Play 2020 report. Go to to register for the Q&A.

Editor’s Note: Members of the press interested in covering the Project Play Summit 2020 can either register directly or watch the Summit on the Aspen Institute’s YouTube channel. For permission to rebroadcast content from the Summit, please contact Jon Solomon:

About Project Play
An initiative of the Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program, Project Play develops, applies and shares knowledge that helps stakeholders build healthy communities through sports. For more information, visit

About the Aspen Institute
The Aspen Institute is a global nonprofit organization committed to realizing a free, just, and equitable society. Founded in 1949, the Institute drives change through dialogue, leadership, and action to help solve the most important challenges facing the United States and the world. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute has a campus in Aspen, Colorado, and an international network of partners.


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