The Washington Post recently reported on a heart warming story about an organization dedicated to getting sports uniforms and equipment to underprivileged children.
Max Levitt founded the Silver Spring, MD area Leveling the Playing Field in 2013. Levitt said, "I wanted to start something on my own, to hopefully change a systemic problem.” Leveling the Playing Field
takes donations of gently used sports equipment, uniforms, and caps, and makes them available to groups such as Dynamic Works Program Support, a D.C. area youth sports organization run by Kevin and Tondrea Giles.
Said Mr. Giles: "In my mind I’m saying, ‘God, you are faithful'...This is almost unbelievable. You cannot overstate how much this is needed.”
Youth sports participation has increased in some areas in recent years. However, as Michael S. Rosenwald reports, "There is a concern that the uptick appears limited to children in higher income families."
He continues, "A 2014 study by the University of Florida showed sports participation rates for children among families earning more than $100,000 per year is 33 percent. For those below $25,000, it's 15 percent."
Many of the life-long lessons imparted by team sports can be lost to young people who don't have these opportunities, and this can in turn create a self-perpetuating cycle, in which the very people who would benefit most from the structured atmosphere of team sports are the people who don't get the chance to participate.
This comes amidst reports thatyouth sports participation on the whole is dropping. Rosenwald tells us, "More than 26 million children ages 6 to 17 played team sports in 2014, down nearly 4 percent from 2009, according to a widely cited survey by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association. Total sports played have plummeted by nearly 10 percent."
Many factors are suspected to be behind this trend, including a focus on sport-specialization, increasing economic stratification, and the pull of screen-based entertainments such as tablets, cell phones, and video games. Rosenwald finds much of the fault with the parents of youth sports, who often often pressure their children to focus on winning and competing at ever higher levels, even when this means the young athletes get less satisfaction and ultimately quit sooner.
Still, few dispute the net positive impact sports participation can have on development, and the many parents, coaches, teachers, and administrators involved will continue to strive to give as many kids as possible the best experience they can. The more kids who have the sports team uniforms and equipment they need, the better experiences they will have, and ultimately the more growth their communities will have as a result of their experiences.