Local Government & Youth Sports: Navigating Play Space Regulations, Health Guidelines, Liability, and More
Our NextUp Town Hall series aims to connect, inform and inspire youth sports organizers all across the country. In this installment, we explored how local governments have reshaped youth sports in the pandemic and what that means for organizers––now and into the future.
We welcomed Meredith Berkowitz (West Side Soccer League), Skip Gilbert (CEO of U.S. Youth Soccer), Mike Masserman (Former Head of Global Policy & Social Impact at Lyft), and Andrew So (South Bronx United) to share their insights on advocacy and relationship building with local government. For access to the full video recording, click here. For the three major takeaways from the discussion, moderated by LeagueApps President Jeremy Goldberg, continue reading.
1. Find allies (and don’t be afraid of the competition)
Holistic collaboration is key. When approaching local officials, a coordinated, populated effort can communicate the urgency of the need and the breadth of community members that care about the outcome. Thankfully, there are hidden allies all around you!
Reach out to organizers from rival clubs. Team up with your local counterparts across different sports. Leverage your network of parents and their contacts. Work with national sport governing bodies to validate your concerns. Contact local press and utilize social media to amplify your message. To see how LeagueApps has been working with industry allies to collaborate with government through the pandemic, click here.
2. Choose empathy—even when you disagree
Government, particularly at the local level, exists to protect the health and safety of its people. Unfavorable decisions–– like shutting down play spaces–– are usually driven by good intentions like keeping community members safe and limiting liability.
Even if you disagree with a policy, it’s essential to confront the situation with a spirit of empathy for how decisions are made and understanding of good intentions. Choosing an empathy-based approach (over an adversarial one) will get government on your side more quickly and make change more probable. COVID-19 has brought local government to the forefront of youth sports and it’s here to stay. Developing an amicable relationship with local government now will help your organization solve problems and seize opportunities more efficiently in the future.
3. Use storytelling to influence government
When the New York City parks department announced they would not be issuing field permits this fall, Andrew So of South Bronx United and Meredith Berkowitz of West Side Soccer League coordinated a massive community effort, titled #Fields4NYCYouth, to challenge the decision. In a letter to the mayor and the parks commissioner, they told a story about the consequences of shutting down youth sports–– especially as it relates to the physical, mental, and social-emotional health of young people. Ultimately, the decision was reversed and New York City began issuing field permits to leagues and teams.
Storytelling is a powerful tool for engaging with local government, particularly when you highlight the consequences of not taking action. Stories allow you to communicate the gravity of a need–– through research and data–– with a spirit of friendliness and empathy. You can read more about #Fields4NYCYouth here.
To learn more about LeagueApps’ advocacy efforts, click here.