We embrace a Sports For All, Play For Life model that is founded upon physical literacy principles. Physical literacy is the ability, confidence, and desire to be physically active for life.

Embrace a sport model that welcomes all children.


The aspirational Sport for All, Play for Life model guiding this report aims to serve all young people in all communities, while aligning the interests of elite and grassroots sport with public health and other sectors. The model was pioneered in Canada and modified by Project Play to reflect U.S. culture, needs, and opportunities. 


The goal of our model is for every child in America to be physically literate by age 12. That is, every 12-year-old should have the ability, confidence, and desire to be physically active for life. 

1. Ability
Ability refers to competency in basic movement skills and an overall fitness that allows individuals to engage in a variety of games and activities. This outcome is achieved through a mix of informal play and intentional teaching of movement skills, among them running, balancing, gliding, hopping, skipping, jumping, dodging, falling, swimming, kicking, throwing and a range of skills that require general hand-eye coordination.

2. Confidence
Confidence is knowing that you have the ability to play sports or enjoy other physical activities. It is the result of programs and venues that are inclusive of people with differing abilities, and the support and encouragement from parents, guardians, coaches, administrators, teammates and peers throughout the development process.

3. Desire
Desire is the intrinsic enthusiasm for physical activity, whether in organized or unstructured formats, in traditional or alternative sport. This result is achieved through early positive experiences that are fun and motivate children to do their best.

Each of these components builds upon one another to give children the foundation to be active for life. For a deep dive on physical literacy and the opportunities it presents for the U.S., please see the following report developed by Aspen Institute Project Play working group and released in June 2015: plreport.projectplay.us. Also see here for video from the 2016 Project Play Summit.


Sport is just one venue to foster Physical Literacy in All Youth—PLAY—but it’s an important one. 

Fig.5 [Citation]

Sport For All, Play For Life Model

Broad access leads to sustained participation


Physical literacy sits at the base of the Sport for All, Play for Life model, providing children with the tools to pursue the most appropriate pathway for them as they enter their teenage years. A few will pursue elite- level sports in adolescence, motivated by dreams of competing at the state, national, college, or professional levels. Many more will follow a local competitive sport track, through school, club, or community sports. The rest may choose less-structured activities and will have developed the skills and desire to enjoy a variety of sports throughout their lives, from cycling and rock climbing to neighborhood or company softball teams to swimming, biking, and yoga.


Versions of this model have been proposed by top academics studying youth and athletic development. It responds to the growing body of research that supports a sampling period of sport activities through age 12, even for elite athletes. Indeed, contrary to popular assumption, athletes are more likely to play at the college level and beyond if they wait until later to specialize in one sport. Both health and performance are served if the preteen years are treated as a development zone, with activities that build physical literacy.(9)


In 2014, the U.S. Olympic Committee embraced a form of the model, hoping to build the base from which more potential champions could emerge. But the real benefits will flow to society at large. 

Fig.6 [Citation]

Active Kids Do Better In Life

What the research shows on the compounding benefit


PROJECT PLAY SUMMIT: First Lady Michelle Obama on importance of sport for all