The Story Behind the PLAY Sports Coalition
How we got involved in the legislative effort to support youth and local sports across the country.
By Jeremy Goldberg
When I announced to the LeagueApps team that we had taken a leadership role in the PLAY Sports Coalition, I began by saying that I had never felt more strongly about the power of sport than I did in that moment. Now, more than two months into this forced pause, this conviction remains. Sport keeps kids active. Sport brings communities together. When we can’t come together and play, we all feel a little less connected.
Thankfully, I wasn’t the only person who was feeling this way, and before long, the PLAY Sports Coalition was born. PLAY, which stands for “Promoting Local and Youth Sports,” was launched by a group of sports leaders with a single mission: finding ways to provide economic relief to organizations impacted by COVID-19 to ensure that youth sports survives, and then thrives. Unfortunately, organizers were never going to benefit from many of the CARES Act programs, which were designed to support companies with wage workers—not clubs, camps, tournament operations, and facilities which overwhelmingly employ 1099s and have unique operating costs. If our industry was going to thrive tomorrow, it would need help surviving today.
The fact that so many national and local leaders came together in a united front was a major milestone for our industry—one that has remained quite fragmented up to this point—and part of what I believe has set us up for success. A herculean effort like this requires strength in numbers.
Our first action was calling on the leadership of Congress to pass an $8.5 billion economic stabilization fund, providing organizers with direct financial assistance as they recovered from the shutdown and returned to play. Along with other members of the Coalition’s steering committee, including the National Council for Youth Sports (NCYS) and Laureus Sport for Good, we worked to gather more than 400 signatures within a single week. These made their way into letters that were sent to representatives Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy, and Charles Schumer.
In just a few days, these letters were backed by the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Youth Sports, and received 29 signatures of support on Capitol Hill. (I spoke about this with another member of the steering committee, Benita Mosley, on Sports Business Journal’s Unpacks podcast here.). A few weeks later, Congressman Max Rose of New York sponsored the bill with the introduction of the COVID-19 Youth Sports and Working Families Relief Act. “Little league, youth soccer, dance and all our youth sports organizations and activities are so much more than a chance for our kids to play—they serve as foundations to our community,” said Congressman Rose. “But unfortunately like every other corner of our society, these organizations and the families that support them have been hit incredibly hard by the coronavirus. They need our help and I’m proud to fight to get them the relief they so desperately need.”
To date, more than 3,500 organizations across the country have gotten involved in the Coalition. We are hopeful that this number will continue to grow as our efforts continue to gain traction in Washington and in the media. In addition to our participation in the steering committee, LeagueApps has been helping to stand up a Grassroots Leadership Council that will give a small group of organizers an opportunity to advocate on behalf of their peers.
So what’s next? If you’re leading a youth and local sports organization and want to get involved, all you need to do is visit https://playsportscoalition.org/. You can also join the movement on social media, where we’re rallying behind #Unite2PLAY and sharing what we miss most about sports. Not surprisingly, we’re thinking less about the wins and the losses, and more about the things we love about playing, watching, and coaching the game.
Just like in sports, it’s amazing to see what can be achieved when people come together. As a coalition, we’re also advocating for support for working families in having access to amazing sports experiences, and also using our broad-based community to support a safe return to play. Make sure to check out the Coalition’s recently published Return to Play Considerations, which outline sports-specific considerations for resuming practices and games, share best practices for keeping players and coaches safe, suggest formats for waivers and other liability documents, and more.
At LeagueApps, we believe that sports will come back—and when they do, they’ll be more powerful than ever. In the meantime, we’re truly humbled to be among those who are leading the efforts to provide our industry with the help and support it deserves.
Here’s to playing forever.