The Aspen Institute Project Play Project Play envisions an America in which all children have the opportunity to be active through sports, helping build healthier communities.
You want youth sport to be a great experience. Communities everywhere need it to be a great experience.
For all kids.
The Aspen Institute’s Project Play offers a pathway. This is the microsite for our seminal report, Sport for All, Play for Life: A Playbook to Get Every Kid in the Game, identifying eight strategies for the eight sectors that touch the lives of children. Aggregating the most promising opportunities to emerge from two years of roundtables with 300+ leaders, the playbook was released in 2015 at the Project Play Summit, where US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy called the report “a very powerful roadmap“ for innovation and collaboration. It’s also a framework for what good looks like in youth sports.
Since then, more than 100 organizations have used the report to introduce programs or shape their youth strategies – from professional leagues to media companies to local sport providers. The US Olympic Committee used the report to inform its American Development Model. The International Olympic Committee recognized it as a key resource for leaders. The YMCA of the USA pledged to revise its youth sport vision based on the Project Play strategies.
How to put Project Play to work where you live?
1) Read the playbook. Reflect on the eight strategies. If you’re a parent, are you asking your kids what they desire from a sports experience? If you’re a coach, are you developing physical literacy or just sport-specific skills? If you’re an administrator, are you making best use of the available recreation space? If you're a techie, are you designing solutions to get kids moving (think Pokemon Go)? Everyone has a role in giving kids what they want and need.
2) Host a town hall. Share the playbook, gather local stakeholders (sport organizers, P.E. teachers, municipal leaders, students, others) and facilitate a group conversation about how your community can best serve all of its children through sports. Identify ways to work together. Set shared goals. If useful in rallying your community, distribute the following video, created by one parks and recreation department responding to Project Play (Sylvania, Ohio).
3) Demand quality in programs. If you’re a parent, don’t be shy about asking whether a program’s coaches are trained in the key competencies in working with kids (general coaching philosophy, physical and emotional safety, and skills & tactics, plus concussion management where appropriate). Does the club or program encourage multi-sport play? Equal playing time through age 12? Does it make room for loosely structured, kid-directed play?
4) Keep the big picture in mind. We need to build a sport system that makes room for all kids, regardless of zip code or ability. First Lady Michelle Obama underscored this point at the 2016 Project Play Summit. Nearly one in three children and teens today are overweight or obese (1), costing hundreds of billions of dollars annually in medical and economic productivity costs (2). No strategy holds more promise in reducing obesity rates among children ages 6-12 than participation in after-school programs (3).
5) Make commitments to action. At the Aspen Institute, we try to recognize the most meaningful commitments by organizations. Through our “What Your Play?” program, more than 30 have been have been invited to announce new efforts at our Project Play Summits. We also identify five key developments in each of the eight strategies in our annual State of Play report, new this year. Our 2016 report also offers latest data on sport participation rates plus crowd-sourced grades on how well stakeholders are serving children through sports.
Finally, please stay in touch with us. At our Project Play website (www.projectplay.us), you can sign up for our newsletter, find more reports and learn about upcoming events. We also share news, research and insights on Twitter (@AspenInstSports) and Facebook (https://facebook.com/aspeninstsports).
We hope you find our work useful in building healthy kids and communities through sports.
Tom FarreyExecutive Director
Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program