Looking Back and Moving Forward: Elevating Youth Sports in a Changing World

By Malorie Polster, MPH, ORISE Prevention Science Fellow, ODPHP and CDR Katrina L. Piercy, PhD, RD, Acting Director, Division of Prevention Science, ODPHP

It has been a little over a year since our office launched the National Youth Sports Strategy Champions (NYSS Champions) partnership initiative at the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition Annual Meeting in September 2020. NYSS Champions are recognized for their work promoting youth sports participation and supporting the vision of the National Youth Sports Strategy: that one day all youth will have the opportunity, motivation, and access to play sports. Today, we celebrate and thank the 167 organizations that are part of the network.

A Diverse Network

Although youth sports organizations make up a large part of the network, progress toward ensuring access to safe, fun, inclusive, developmentally appropriate, and accessible youth sports opportunities requires a united effort across diverse sectors and levels of society.

Over the last year, the network has expanded to include NYSS Champions representing business, community recreation, education, government, health care, and even those that do not work directly in youth sports but are looking for ways to support youth sports in their community. We also celebrate how NYSS Champions range in size from small community-based organizations to large national organizations — and there is now an NYSS Champion in every state across the United States!

Keeping Youth Engaged

During the COVID-19 pandemic, NYSS Champions have continued to positively impact the social, emotional, and physical health of youth in their communities. Some NYSS Champions found creative ways to keep kids engaged in physical activity virtually. Others went beyond their typical programmatic efforts by providing groceries or offering COVID-19 testing information. During times of social isolation, many NYSS Champions were essential resources to help keep kids connected and support the overall health and well-being of youth in their communities.

In our summer blog series, we highlighted how 5 NYSS Champions — South Bronx United, Tukwila Parks and Recreation, Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources, Greater Youth Sports Association, and Kinetic Kids — found new and creative ways to engage their communities in physical activity and sports during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bringing NYSS Champions Together

In addition to their individual efforts, NYSS Champions support and collaborate with other organizations in the network. NYSS Champions have shared over 100 resources with each other, including grant opportunities, trainings, tip sheets, and reports.

This summer, over 50 NYSS Champions came together virtually for a half-day workshop where they built connections and partnerships, shared resources, and discussed opportunities to improve the youth sports landscape in their communities. Their active engagement and ideas for ongoing collaboration demonstrated their commitment to working together in pursuit of the National Youth Sports Strategy vision.

Planning for the Future

NYSS Champions play a pivotal role in improving the youth sports landscape, and we are excited to continue our efforts to grow the network, share resources, and bring attention to the great work of NYSS Champions. We also look forward to exploring new ways to facilitate networking and collaboration among NYSS Champions. We encourage organizations that support youth sports or want to get more involved to join the network.

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