This week marks the sixth anniversary of Up2Us Sports. This organization was founded to create a movement in America that asks all of us to rethink how we view sports and its role in our society. We want every child in this country to have access to sports. We want every sports program to teach that child not just the rules of the game, but the rules of life. We want every coach to be trained to use the power of sports as a platform for inspiring young people to see their potential on the field, in their classrooms, and in their communities. We want every sports organization to see itself as a critical agent of social change in its community. And we want professional leagues and teams to step up to the plate and realize that their industry role is not only about using their sport to entertain us but to inspire the wellness of the next generation of Americans. Our work has only just begun, but with this anniversary comes the chance to pause and celebrate six steps we have taken in six years to move this agenda forward:
1. We have defined Sports-Based Youth Development (SBYD).
SBYD is our enhanced definition of sports. It means that playing sports is not just about becoming a great athlete, it’s about becoming a great human being. It means that intrinsic to sports are values, lessons and character development that help children be more successful in all aspects of their lives. When we embrace SBYD, we lay down the framework to ensure that no sports programs are ever cut from our schools, parks and communities again. That’s because sports represent more than just championships - they are a tool for helping communities and schools achieve positive physical and mental health outcomes for their youth.
2. We have created a national network of SBYD programs.
More than 1100 organizations are now part of our network. They include schools, parks, nonprofits and faith-based organizations that are using sports to address challenges facing youth like childhood obesity, violence and dropout rates in our public schools. Working together with our network, we are defining best practices for SBYD programming, and we are helping our member organizations achieve professional standards by which they create measurable impact on the youth they serve.
3. We have defined what it means to be an SBYD coach.
Our SBYD standards transform the role of coaching into a whole new context of child care and development. Our training to achieve these standards enables coaches to become the most positive role models in kids’ lives by providing them with tools and methodologies for using their sport to create a great kid and a great athlete.
4. We have created a national SBYD coach workforce.
We have hired and trained more than 1700 coaches to work with at-risk youth in neighborhoods that lack affordable and accessible recreation programs. In doing so, we have raised the visibility of coaching into a recognized form of national service. Each year, more and more adults are signing up for our acclaimed Coach Across America program as a way of giving back to kids and impacting their health and well-being.
5. We have reconnected returning veterans with their communities through coaching.
We have launched a unique program to hire and train returning veterans as coaches. The program helps our military service members transition their values of teamwork, leadership and physical activity into critical roles as coaches and mentors in their hometown communities. The program also uses this important period of acclimation to provide our veteran coaches with training and support to seek out longer term careers in health, wellness and nonprofit management.
6. In the spirit of true athletes, we haven't given up.
We recognize that the ultimate victory is being sure that every child, regardless of gender and income, has access to an affordable SBYD program with a highly trained coach. When we achieve this goal, we will have achieved victory. And as true athletes, we will never give up and never stop trying.