Project Play Champions are organizations taking new, meaningful, sPECIFIC actions consistent with the strategies of Project Play

Annually, we will select organizations to be Project Play Champions and the groups listed were selected as the inaugural class of Project Play Champions.


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500 Festival

The 500 Festival, an Indiana-based non-profit, commits to partnering with INSHAPE (the Indiana Society for Health and Physical Educators) to get kids active in every school throughout Indiana. We will offer a menu of opportunities (curriculum, events, fundraisers) that physical education teachers can implement to inspire movement. INSHAPE will create a new year-round program for K-12 students entitled “Mini Moves" that will provide a platform for numerous age-appropriate activities, and continue the efforts of the 500 Festival to expand the culture of running and walking. This partnership will be launched at the INSHAPE annual conference in November, attended by 600+ Indiana Physical Education teachers. 

Algonquin Sports for Kids

Algonquin Sports for Kids, a not-for-profit organization offering soccer and tennis programs in Buffalo, commits to develop and run training programs that are designed specifically to improve effective coaching, age-appropriate motivational techniques, and sport-specific skill trainings to specific subgroups including high school students, college students, and parents.  Algonquin Sports plans to run at least 15 coach training events in the community, benefitting 225 coaches who will work with youth athletes across the Western New York Community.

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Appleton (WI) Parks & Recreation Youth Sports

The Appleton Parks & Recreation Department (Appleton, WI) commits to helping communities across the state grow their recreational sport programs by developing programming aligned with the needs of children. Four years ago, Appleton underwent a systematic renovation of its youth sports programs, using the 8 plays of Project Play as a guide for its efforts to reclaim the youth sports experience for the community.  As a result, participation in the city's primary youth sports leagues has increased by more than 60 percent, to 2,600 children. Now, Appleton leaders will share lessons with other park and recreation leaders across the state at workshops, empowering them to revitalize programs in their own communities.  Through these efforts, they aim to inspire 25-30 communities to reinvest in their programs, giving ownership of the youth sports experience back to families.

Association of Chief Executives for Sport

The Association of Chief Executives for Sport (ACES), which supports the business interests of non-profit sport organizations, will drive adoption of policies and practices that promote sport sampling among youth. Using the Project Play checklist for National Sport Organizations as a guide, ACES will enlist member organizations to evaluate their current practices and commit to further developing strategies for multi-sport participation or opportunities over the next year. The Aspen Institute will support ACES by providing participating organizations with technical guidance and helpful materials.

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Banner Neighborhoods Community Corporation

Banner Neighborhoods Community Corporation commits to growing the variety of sports offered to children in the east and southeast neighborhoods of Baltimore City. Banner, which currently offers only a basketball program, will add programs and clinics for soccer, track/running, tennis, kickball and flag football. 

Detroit PAL

The Detroit Police Athletic League (PAL) will launch a major initiative in spring 2019 on behalf of Girls Changing the Game, and supported by the Detroit PAL Women’s Committee, that will empower girls through athletic and leadership programming that helps them become strong, healthy, confident women who give back to their community. The initiative brings together Detroit’s four professional sports teams (Detroit Lions, Detroit Tigers, Detroit Pistons and Detroit Red Wings) to raise up to $100,000 that will be used to expand the Future Coaches Leadership Academy, which recruits high school girls to coach girls youth teams; the Kick Like a Girl soccer partnership with Oakland University, Wayne State University, and the Detroit Sun women’s soccer club; and the volleyball program.

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DREAM, a non-profit that serves inner-city youth in East Harlem, commits to expand sport options for children based on their expressed interests. Surveys will be used to identify sports they want added, and a new, full-time staff member dedicated to programs for elementary-school age children will introduce up to five programs that are not currently offered in-house by DREAM. Partners will be sought to introduce these activities, and Project Play strategies will guide their delivery, with the goal of impacting approximately 500 children.

Fred Wells Tennis and Education Center

The Minnesota-based Fred Wells Tennis and Education Center will bring free tennis programs to low-income neighborhoods in the Minneapolis and St. Paul areas. The center will provide transportation to these local opportunities, to be placed at schools and in community gyms. It also commits to expand its free drop-in tennis program on Friday nights for middle school and high school youth by dedicating more court time and providing free transportation.  As a result of these moves, the center expects to increase participation among elementary school youth by 21 percent, and middle school and high school youth by 50 percent.

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i9 Sports

i9 Sports, the nation's largest youth sports league franchise business, commits to promoting multi-sport play through a series of measures. We will educate parents on the value of sports sampling through messaging in our website, newsletters, blogs, and social media content. We will encourage and facilitate multi-sport participation by adding two new sports: short-sided 3v3 lacrosse for boys and girls this fall, and short-sided volleyball for boys and girls in 2019.

The Lindy Infante Foundation

The Lindy Infante Foundation, which provides athletic opportunities to children in need to play sports, commits $225,000 to the Boys & Girls Club of Columbus, Ohio to form the first-ever competitive basketball leagues for girls and boys grades 3-5. This grant is a three-year commitment and will serve 300 children. It will scale to serve subsequent sites in later years.

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MVP360 Leadership Development Programs, Inc.

MVP360, a non-profit sport provider whose mission is to empower youth to become leaders and productive members of society through equal opportunity athletics and educational programs within the communities they serve, will greatly expand its set of sport offerings. In 2019, the Philadelphia-based organization will add softball, baseball, basketball, and introduce no-contact football camps to inner-city families. The efforts will result in providing 800+ kids with a cradle-to-grave approach to pursuing their passion.

National Council of Youth Sports

The National Council of Youth Sports (NCYS), which represents some 250 organizations serving more than 60M youth participation opportunities in organized sports programs annually, will partner with Project Play to promote a sport model that welcomes all children. The NCYS will share with its members and drive adoption of Project Play resources including youth coaching resources, parent engagement resources, the Project Play checklist for National Sport Organizations on sport sampling, and a digital Teamwork Toolkit that can help local leaders landscape their community and mobilize for collective impact.


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Racquet Up Detroit

Racquet Up Detroit will expand its program, which introduces kids to the sport of squash while providing positive long-term development, to two new schools: University Yes Academy and Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, where 9th graders will be able to join Racquet Up programming for the first time. These partnerships will not only strengthen student enrollment but will broaden Racquet Up’s student recruitment network, positioning the organization for significant future growth. These new partnerships will be launched in the 2018-2019 school year.

Saturday Night Lights

Saturday Night Lights, a youth development initiative in New York City in partnership with the Manhattan District Attorney's office, uses community spaces to provide sports and fitness programming on Saturday nights 46 weeks of the year to elementary, middle, and high school students who live or attend school in Manhattan. The program connects youth to resources and builds trust between law enforcement and the community and since January of 2018 they have served more than 2,500 young people. In 2019, the program will expand to all boroughs of New York City, serving a projected additional 1,000 young people annually.

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Seneca Babcock Community Association

Seneca Babcock Community Association of Buffalo will build a new $4 million athletic/recreation center that will increase the youth they serve from 300 to 600. The facility will include a new multi-sport play field and multi-sport play surface, as well as a putt-putt course with fun cross walks throughout the Seneca-Babcock community called “Seneca-Babcock Links and Crosses.” This is an 18-hole golf course that will be developed with public art, helping to increase physical activity, safety and a sense of community. The course will be a total of 1.5 walkable miles and will also be ready in April 2019.

Susan Crown Exchange

The Susan Crown Exchange (SCE) commits to improving the quality of programs by identifying best practices in Social Emotional Learning for youth coaches. In partnership with the Aspen Institute's Sports & Society Program and National Commission on Social, Emotional and Academic Development, SCE will convene academic and sport leaders to develop an evidence-based framework that youth-serving organizations can use to develop and refine coach training resources. 


U.S. Soccer Federation

The U.S. Soccer Federation commits to working with the Aspen Institute to find new ways to align its programming and resources with the eight plays in the Project Play framework. That commitment starts with an effort to grow the quality and quantity of youth coaches, through affordable and accessible entry-level grassroots coach education courses, as offered through their Digital Coaching Center, that are attractive to any organization offering soccer programming. Their goal is to issue 300,000 new licenses by the end of 2022 with a target of 250,000 of these licenses being to grassroots coaches.

Up2Us Sports

Up2Us Sports, which trains and supports coaches in low-income urban communities, will work with World Sport Chicago, the legacy fund of the Chicago Olympic bid, to place 300 coaches in Chicago communities over the next 5 years. The effort, to begin in January 2019, will provide 25,000 at-risk youth with the chance to sample more than a dozen Olympic sports, while translating sport skills to life skills. 


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U.S. Youth Soccer

The largest youth sports organization in the country, US Youth Soccer (USYS) will implement a program to drive adoption of Project Play strategies across its membership. USYS will work with its state associations to encourage multi-sport play among youth, promote Project Play coach training resources, support Project Play's parent engagement campaign, add the voice of kids in USYS board meetings, and advocate for free play and the revitalization of in-town leagues.

Victory Sports Global Outreach Inc.

Victory Sports Global Outreach, which distributes new and gently used youth sports equipment to underserved programs, will partner with Project Play: Western New York to test the concept of placing bins of sports equipment (mostly balls) in strategic locations throughout Buffalo and the surrounding region. These bins will be placed in public locations such as fire and police departments, and community centers. The equipment will be available for kids to use and return on the honor system, so they will do frequent inventory checks and refill the bins as needed.  They anticipate this program, to launch in spring 2019, will serve 500+ kids.

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In previous years we recognized organizations who were making meaningful commitments through What’s Your Play. Click here to see an overview of these groups who will be grandfathered in as Project Play Champions.