The Future of Accessibility in Youth Sports: Recapping Our Pro Team Event with R/GA’s Global Sports Venture Studio
On the eve of a virtual event with our pro team partners, LeagueApps partner and investor, the LA Dodgers, won the world series for the first time since 1988! In a time of so much uncertainty and division, it was great to be reminded of the power of sport to bring people together on common ground.
The next day, we sat down with Nichol Whiteman (CEO of LA Dodgers Foundation), John Thomas (VP of Basketball Development at the Minnesota Timberwolves), Renata Simril (President and CEO of LA84), and Tara Moss (Managing Director of R/GA Portland) to discuss leveraging the positive power of sport to tackle inequities within youth sports organizations and the broader communities in which they operate.
The event was a success thanks to our partners at The Global Sports Venture Studio which helps the world’s leading sports organizations innovate. To watch the full video recording, click here. For three major takeaway from the event, continue reading.
1. Change starts from within
Maybe you’ve started the important work of closing the gap in youth sports in your community or maybe you’re just beginning. Either way, it’s essential to check in with your own program and your own position within that program before forging ahead.
Do you have diversity of thought and equitable representation in your front office and coaching staff? Are you in a position of privilege in which you can elevate voices of underserved athletes? Would an athlete of color feel comfortable and supported playing in your programs? Before looking outward, start by making your organization reflective of the equitable youth sports landscape you want to see.
2. Strength in numbers
Sport is supposed to be the great equalizer, but in reality it functions as a reflection of the broader systemic issues in our society. Youth athletes from affluent communities often have unlimited access to field space, equipment, and high quality coaching. They have the funding to travel for better competition or college showcases. Contrastingly, many athletes from underserved communities lack access to the most basic resources and support needed to play at a high level.
Dismantling these systems of inequity is going to take mass coordination and cooperation–– starting at the local level. In order to take on the work, you’re going to need more funding, more resources, and more partnerships. Enlist your fellow youth sports organizers, build lasting relationships with local policy makers, invest in your parent network, and team up with nonprofits that align with your mission to expand your reach.
3. Make your work kid-centric
At the end of the day, we all want the same thing: more kids in sport. Plus, increased engagement in youth sports is a win-win for everyone. For kids, there is proven data that shows the positive benefits of organized play on both physical and social-emotional health. Further, lifelong engagement in sport opens doors to academic and professional opportunities. For organizers at all levels, more kids in sport means a more profitable business.
If you want to increase access to your programming and sustain consistent participation, it’s essential to make your organization more appealing to kids. Many of our partners are experimenting with social media tactics like Tik Tok content to attract younger audiences. Some are leveraging the power of influencers like professional athletes or community heroes to encourage participation in sport. A great place to start is with your parent base. More engaged parents means that your message is going to be emphasized at home by the very voices that help kids make decisions and the very people that get them to games and practices.
Whatever you do, LeagueApps and our pro team partners encourage you to be authentic in your efforts and challenge you to follow through on your commitment to improve access to your youth sports organization. To learn more about what LeagueApps is doing to close the gap, click here. To attend a future discussion on the most pressing issues in youth sports, check out our events calendar.