Events | Reports
Project Play explores breakthrough ideas at three types of events: Town halls/summits for large gatherings, all-day deep dive roundtables with 25+ thought leaders, and "Aspen Timeout" panels held at major conferences of stakeholder organizations
Any true commitment to broad-based sports participation begins with infrastructure. Fields. Gyms. Rinks. Rec centers. Bike paths. Build, maintain and secure ‘em, or pay the price later. Federal support for such projects took a serious hit in 1980, and it’s never recovered. Today, we see park and rec departments under significant duress – and the rise of private, specialized athletic facilities whose programming is too expensive for many families. In Chicago, the Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society Program convenes 30+ leaders for a Project Play conversation on how to grow the supply of safe play spaces that meet the needs of all children in all communities. Held at Navy Pier on the final day of the Illinois Youth Sports Summit, and on the eve of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Assembly, the dialogue will identify breakthrough ideas in funding, collaboration and innovation that can serve urban, suburban and rural communities – each of which face its own distinct challenges. Leaders will also consider ways that the hosting of an Olympic Games can best leave a legacy of community facilities.Details
1:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Any true commitment to broad-based sports participation begins with infrastructure. Fields. Gyms. Rinks. Rec centers. Bike paths. Build, maintain and secure ‘em, or pay the price later. Federal support for such projects took a serious hit in 1980, and it’s never recovered. Today, we see park and rec departments under significant duress – and the rise of private, specialized athletic facilities whose programming is too expensive for many families. In Chicago, the Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society Program convenes 30+ leaders for a Project Play conversation on how to grow the supply of safe play spaces that meet the needs of all children in all communities. Held at Navy Pier on the final day of the Illinois Youth Sports Summit, and on the eve of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Assembly, the dialogue will identify breakthrough ideas in funding, collaboration and innovation that can serve urban, suburban and rural communities – each of which face its own distinct challenges. Leaders will also consider ways that the hosting of an Olympic Games can best leave a legacy of community facilities.
We've been busy. Over the past year, the Sports & Society Program has hosted a multi-day summit to launch the Aspen Institute's Project Play, six all-day roundtables that explored key topics in depth, one televised town hall on ESPN, and a series of "Aspen Timeout" panels that brought our conversation about regimagining youth sports in America to key groups. More than 200 thought leaders have engaged in our conversations. A wider audience has experienced our content through distribution of our research and summary reports, columns or articles in ESPN Magazine and the Huffington Post, and video clips of and blog postings of our meetings. We have tried to ask the right questions, listen hard and take good notes. Now, it's time to aggregate the best of the ideas we've heard and build the Project Play report, underwritten by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, that will offer a path forward for stakeholders across sectors. The vision is of "Sport for All, Play for Life Communities" that foster a culture of health, starting with universal access to early positive experiences. We will introduce a bold framework designed to serve the interests of all kids in all communities -- and stakeholder tools to help every kid through age 12 get active through sports. The report will be unveiled at an event and date TBD in January 2015.
Partnership for a Healthier America
Children who are physically active enjoy a wide range of emotional, physical, cognitive and social benefits, and are far more likely to achieve their full human potential. At the Partnership for a Healthier America Summit -- one of the premier gatherings of leaders working to end childhood obesity -- Tom Farrey discussed how the Aspen Institute's Project Play will get and keep more kids active through the creation of early positive experiences in sports. Joining him to share their work in this space were Matt Geschke, director of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation USA; Janet Froetscher, CEO of Special Olympics; and Chris Snyder, director of coach education for the U.S. Olympic Committee.
The Aspen Institute
Over the past year, the Aspen Institute's Project play has begun to reimagine youth sports in America in a form that serves all children and all communities. A series of roundtables has established the value of anchoring our disjointed sports system in the principles of age-appropriate play, of training volunteer coaches in the basic competencies to deliver an early positive experience, and the need to grow sport participation rates among the most vulnerable populations. Now, how can stakeholders deliver scalable progress in each of these channels? Underwritten by Nike through its support of the Designed to Move platform, this roundtable of 30 leaders considered the role of, and opportunities for foundations, government, corporations and the health care sector.
Roundtable summary report (11-page PDF)
Technology is often blamed for falling participation rates in team sports. But tech isn't going away. So how do we use tech as an asset, and reduce the barriers to an early positive sports experience? This one-day roundtable convened 40+ leaders from the realms of technology, business innovation, sport and academia to develop four emerging ideas that could change the game for kids and youth sports, one of the few industries whose model has yet to be disrupted (for the better) by technology. The event, underwritten by the David & Lucile Packard Foundation and hosted at Google, included a featured talk with Google senior executive Gopi Kallayil, who inspired attendees by drawing connnections to the company's eight points of innovation.
Event summary report (10-page PDF)
ESPN Wide World of Sports
Event Summary (9-page PDF)
Pediatricians, sports medicine doctors and researchers have valuable recommendations and insights on how to properly engage and protect children in sports – insights rarely considered by parents and sport organizers. This one-day event convened about 50 leaders from medicine, sport, academia and business innovation to address the role of medical professionals in informing the decision-making process in youth sports.
The dialogue identified opportunities to integrate medical/health professionals into the structure of sport bodies, and grow the quality and quantity of resources that can provide care for youth athletes. Participants also expressed support for holding off on tackle football until age 14. Helping to inform the day's conversation was the University of Florida’s SPARC, which consolidated the recommendations made by 11 medical and health groups on topics related to children’s sport activity –- from sport specialization to physical activity.
The roundtable was held in conjunction with the Developing the Healthy Athlete conference, with space provided by Disney/ESPN Wide World of Sports. Event sponsors were the American College of Sports Medicine; American Academy of Pediatrics; American Council on Exercise; Platinum Performance; Broad & Cassel, and the World Sports Institute.
Clinton Health Matters annual conference
Roundtable summary report (10-page PDF)
How can stakeholders deliver more early positive experiences to underserved populations? In the third of four Project Play roundtables on how to grow the quality and quantity of youth coaches, we turned our attention to what’s possible in low-income and other communities that lack trained volunteers. We also considered the needs of other marginalized groups, including the intellectually or physically challenged, and begged the question: Can we build a socially inclusive model for youth sports in America? This invitation-only gathering of 25 thought leaders was held at the Clinton Health Matters Conference of the Clinton Foundation, a partner in the Aspen Institute’s Project Play.
Participants included legendary golfer Gary Player, founder of the Player Foundation which serves disadvantaged children; Notah Begay III, founder of the Notah Begay Foundation and former PGA Tour golfer; Anita DeFrantz, CEO of the LA84 Foundation; Janet Froetscher, CEO of Special Olympics; Marj Snyder, research director for the Women's Sports Foundation; Ginny Ehrlich, CEO of the Clinton Health Matters Initiative; Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, U.S. Olympic Committee chief of organizational excellence and an Olympic gold medalist hurdler; Caitlin Morris, North America executive director for Nike's Access to Sport division; Eli Wolff, director of the Inclusive Sports Initiative; and Jill Vialet, CEO of Playworks.
Clinton Health Matters Conference
How do we get and keep more kids active in sports into the teenage years? On the opening night of the Clinton Health Matters Conference and in partnership with ESPN, President Clinton led a conversation on the central question of the Aspen Institute's Project Play with 15-time NBA All Star Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest players in basketball history. Tom Farrey, director of the Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program and ESPN reporter, also moderated panels featuring Major League Baseball All-Star Matt Kemp, Olympic champion sprinter Allyson Felix, NFL great and Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker, and U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun.
ESPN taped the Town Hall before a live, invitation-only audience of 400 health leaders and kids, and aired a one-hour, prime time special Feb. 9 on ESPN2. Watch video clips from each of the panels at the links below, and join the conversation on Twitter at #KidsAndSports and @AspenInstSports #ProjectPlay.
"(Sports) made a huge difference to me because it made me feel comfortable with being with other people, " Clinton told ESPN's Mike Greenberg in his moderated conversation with Bryant. "A lot of kids are just uncomfortable in school. You play a few games and you're not so uncomfortable anymore. It's a way of belonging. It's a way of having a common language without having to open your mouth."
Bryant came to the conversation from the perspective of both a father to two daughters and as a world-class athlete. Before the event, he said, "Today's kids are the least active in history and, dropping out of sports at alarming rates. I'm excited to join the Aspen Institute Project Play dialogue and partner with President Clinton, Nike and ESPN at the upcoming Clinton Health Matters conference to bring attention to the need for universal access and early positive experiences in sports and play." The Clinton Foundation is a partner in Project Play.
During the Town Hall, Blackmun explained how the USOC will act on one of the breakthrough ideas explored during a Project Play event in September. He announced a Clinton Foundation commitment to action, with the USOC and U.S. Paralympics pledging to introduce the "American Development Model," a comprehensive and collaborative initiative that will seek to unify National Governing Bodies and community programs in keeping Americans active in sport longer.
The model combines sport, play, education and health through a five-stage pathway that supports a positive sport experience based on the individual’s physical, mental and emotional development. Through its commitment to the Clinton Health Matters Initiative, the USOC will engage all 47 NGBs (national sport governing bodies) to endorse the American Development Model. Resources will include a dedicated presence at TeamUSA.org, coaching workshops, and educational materials to help guide parents, coaches, administrators and athletes."
Also at the Clinton conference, Nike announced it will continue its partnership with the Aspen Institute to address the physical inactivity epidemic in today’s youth. Through its “Designed to Move” platform, Nike will support the convening of leaders in the sports world to develop scalable solutions that address seven key indicators of early sports experiences -– access, age appropriateness, dosage and duration, fun, incentives and motivation, participant feedback, and coaching and education.
The solutions identified and developed through Project Play will be captured in a report to be released by the Aspen Institute at the end of the year.
US Olympic Training Center
Roundtable summary report (10-page PDF)
What does good youth coaching look like? What are the practical elements that every adult who works with children needs to be trained in -- from CPR to skills development to positive motivational technique? The second of four roundtables focused on how to grow the quality and quantity of youth coaches in the U.S. The Aspen Institute's Project Play convened more than 30 coaching leaders to consider the prospects of creating a simple, affordable, credible training platform that parents has the endorsement of organizations parents know and trust. Featured guests at the event, sponsored by Nike, included Alan Ashley, U.S. Olympic Committee Chief of Sport Performance.
Sports promote physical activity, but some provide more than others. Held at the American Heart Association's Global Congress on Physical Activity, this Aspen Timeout moderated by Tom Farrey explored which forms of sport produce the greatest health benefits for children -- and which carry the greatest safety risks. Topics included organized vs. unstructured sports, interscholastic vs. intramural sports, team vs. individual sports, and best practices by coaches.
Panelists were Dr. William Dietz, Past Director, Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity, U.S. Centers for Disease Control; Dean Kriellaars, Ph.D. CEP, University of Manitoba School of Medical Rehabilitation, Department of Physical Therapy; and Gary Hall Jr., Principal, Hallway Consulting, 10-time Olympic medalist in swimming.
Session audio available for purchase only at American Heart Association website.
At the ESPNW Summit, Tom Farrey shared the vision of Project Play. He explained why identifying solutions that address the access barriers faced by children from low-income communities holds the promise of delivering the next wave of participation growth in girls' sports. While urban, low-income girls are among the most underserved populations in all of sports, progress lies in serving all kids in areas that lack viable parks and gyms, and available, well-run sport programs.
How can professional athletes can best use their resources (fame, foundations, credibility) to get and keep more children active and healthy through sports, and support communities in need most effectively? Tom Farrey moderated a featured conversation on that topic with NBA All-Star Chris Paul, a member of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition who explain why he gives back. The event was held at the Los Angeles studios of ESPN, a partner in the Aspen Institute’s Project Play, and served to anchor a multi-platform package that engaged ESPN and Aspen Institute audiences.
WATCH and READ: ESPN.com video and text pieces, by Tom Farrey
ESPN.com chat session
SportsNation polls on public expections of athletes (vote)