The Power of Potential:
When All Kids Play Sports, Everybody Wins
The Power of Potential: When All Kids Play Sports, Everybody Wins
“I do love a locker room. It smells like potential,” says fictional coach Ted Lasso of the hit TV show of the same name. It’s true: sports do bring out potential, as well change lives, especially for young people. Unfortunately, the financial costs of playing sports can often prevent a day on the field, diamond, or court for many kids.
Good Sports helps children overcome this challenge. “Access to play means access to essential lessons and skills that will stay with children as they grow. Kids who play sports do better in the classroom, make new friends, and grow in confidence,” says Christy Keswick, Co-Founder and President.
According to the Aspen Institute’s Project Play, the benefits of youth athletics include building healthy exercise and nutrition habits; developing and improving cognitive skills; and positively impacting attitudes and mental health. Students who participate in high school athletics also pursue higher education opportunities at a higher rate than those who don’t. “Every child deserves the chance to experience the benefits,” Keswick says. “And we are determined to help make that happen, by tackling the financial barrier kids in need face to play sports and be active.”
The benefits of youth participation in sports are clear, yet some kids are unfortunately sidelined from such activities due to a lack of resources. To play organized sports, children need equipment and apparel, among other items. Costs put a catcher’s mitt, soccer ball, or hockey stick out of reach for many underprivileged children. That’s why in 2003, Christy Keswick and Melissa Harper (Co-Founder & CEO) set out to ensure more kids could take a swing at the valuable opportunities offered by sports. They reached out to a local basketball manufacturer that had an excess of 500 basketballs and wanted to give back to the community, but had no process through which to donate equipment. Good Sports offered to take the balls and deliver them to youth organizations, where young people who needed them would benefit.
“We raise awareness of how expensive it is to play and how limited resources are for youth organizations and families,” says Keswick. In fact, “The average physical education budget is $764 per year (Shape of America, 2016) and the average family spends $903 (Aspen Institute, 2020) annually on sports,” she says. Since the success of that first donation, Good Sports has partnered with top players in the sporting goods industry to donate $81 million in equipment nationwide. By facilitating the acquisition of new sports equipment, apparel, and footwear, Good Sports helps youth programs increase participation and enhance experiences for deserving children.
“The chance to play makes such a difference,” says Keswick, who shares the recent story of a young man at a California high school who lost his father and was struggling emotionally and academically. “To help cope, his mother signed him up for the school’s baseball program and has since seen tremendous benefits from showing up. The equipment his program received by Good Sports provided essential items he needed to play. In addition to giving him a sense of belonging, he is also more confident academically, and completing more classroom assignments.”
The teenager’s baseball coach is thrilled. He told Keswick, “Sports are changing this kid’s life and our school can’t thank you enough for your part in the story!”
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Good Sports has continued to bridge the gap in access to physical activity. “Nearly 80% of the young people who are part of Good Sports are from communities of color, which have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. So, at a time when children needed play the most, the youth we serve did not have equal access to play.”
“In 2020, children from high-income households were participating in sports activities 2.5 hours more than children from low-income households. Prior to the pandemic, the gap was 40 minutes, according to the Aspen Institute. Equal access to play is more important now than ever before,” Keswick says.
Those who need access to sports can find Good Sports through their website. Choosing a .ORG domain was an important step for the non-profit in creating credibility and trust through their online presence.
“Good Sports’ website and social media platforms are critical to not only communicating what we do, but why. They allow us to make our work more tangible for supporters when they can see photos and videos detailing our work. By showing the quality of brand-new equipment, sharing impact stories, and detailing how people can get involved, we strengthen relationships with current supporters and find new fans!” Keswick says.
To learn more about Good Sports and how to help more young people experience the joy of playing sports, visit www.goodsports.org.