US youth sports leaders forge new coalition

More than 400 leaders from across the US youth sports landscape have joined to form The PLAY Sports Coalition, a new national-level advocacy group seeking to advance the goals of that sector of the industry, both during and after the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Seeking to provide additional structure and unity among the traditionally more fragmented and localized youth sports space, The PLAY Sports Coalition, standing for Promoting Local And Youth Sports, marks a private-sector effort to lobby on behalf of youth sports organizations.

The group’s initial effort is petitioning US Congress for a $8.5bn economic stabilization fund for youth sports providers. The sought-after money would be targeted for several purposes, including reimbursing operators of youth sports camps and clinics for lost expenses, helping keep youth sports programs afloat, and creating a youth sports recovery program.

“The youth sports sector plays a critical role in our economy and the development of our youth, but has faced particularly severe consequences as a result of the coronavirus crisis and resulting National Emergency,” reads a letter sent this week from the coalition to Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, and Kevin McCarthy, minority leader. “For these reasons, crucial additional steps need to be taken to stabilize the industry and invest in recovery.”

A copy of the letter was also sent to Mitch McConnell, US Senate majority leader, and Chuck Schumer, minority leader.

The coalition includes a broad swath of organizations, including prominent ones such as Little League Baseball Inc. and Babe Ruth League Inc., but also many smaller and locally based groups.

Though several national-level organizations already exist in youth sports, the creation of the new coalition is designed to a greater and more unified voice in the space, particularly as it relates to forging a Covid-19 response. 

“Given the unprecedented nature and scope of this pandemic, it’s critical that all of us in youth sports truly come together and speak with one voice,” said Wayne Moss, executive director of the National Council of Youth Sports.

Unlike several other countries, the US does not have a public-sector youth sports ministry overseeing this level of competition, largely leaving it to a collection of private sector organizations and schools of various types.

The lobbying for the $8.5bn in federal aid is designed in part to give youth sports dedicated and specifically earmarked funds, as other stimulus aid to date approved by the US government in many cases has either not addressed this sector, has seen program funds already exhausted, or experienced other logistical issues in delivery.

“These are not traditional small businesses, and you can’t really think of them as traditional small business,” said Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, chief executive of Laureus USA, of youth sports organizations. Fitzgerald Mosley was a gold medalist in the 1984 Summer Olympics. “They have very different structures, but their challenges right now are very real, and some are in real danger of disappearing forever.”

Recent poll figures from the Aspen Institute for Sports found that nearly 60 per cent of local sports leaders are projecting for their organizations to lose at least half of their 2020 revenue due to Covid-19.

The coalition intends to continue on past the conclusion of the pandemic, whenever and however that may occur, and continue to advocate on a broad basis for youth sports.

“There’s going to be some adaptation along the way,” said Jeremy Goldberg, president of LeagueApps, a New York-based online management and registration software company that works heavily in the youth sports space. “There’s going to be a lot less travel, and a lot more local play. But the big thing is to get kids playing again and supporting their efforts as that happens.”

Moss, Goldberg, and Fitzgerald Mosley, among with several others, are each serving a newly created volunteer steering committee for the coalition.