Guest post written by Cameron Connelly, Content & Research Coordinator, The Sports Facilities Companies.
Sports are a great way to provide kids with the opportunity to make friends, learn vital life skills, and stay healthy all while having fun. But not every family has the same opportunity to participate. Sports equipment and registration costs can be expensive, and with some families struggling to even pay rent or buy food for their families it just isn’t feasible for them to pay for their kids to participate in sports. This is a sad reality, but thankfully there are programs and foundations that are helping to reduce the number of families that can’t access sports. This article will cover some of the places that families can go for help and some of the ways that a sports facility can provide help. Because one of the most important lessons that sports teach us is the value of teamwork.
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Scholarships are a common goal for many high school athletes that are looking to continue their sports career while also getting a higher education. But the opportunity to get a college scholarship is completely out of reach if a child can’t afford to play sports at the high school level or lower. That is where youth sports scholarships and grants come into play. Foundations such as Every Kid Sports and Sports Matter take donations from individuals and partners and use those donations to provide lower income families with the money they need to cover the cost of registration and equipment for the sport of their choosing. Every Kid Sports and Sports Matter are national foundations that provide as much help as they can, but there are probably several foundations in your state that provide the same help but at the local level. It could be mutually beneficial to partner with those foundations or to host an event with them at your local facility. Sports Matter held a “Chicago Sports Matter Day” at Wintrust Arena that provided kids with a day filled with sports sampling, healthy food, athlete appearances, swag bags, and fun. This event allowed kids to get a taste of several different sports to find out which one they might want to enroll in next season.
NFL defensive tackle, Jeffery Simmons, signed a sponsorship agreement with the City of Starkville Parks & Recreation and donated $75,000 to host his annual football camp at the Starkville Sportsplex turf field. The sponsorship agreement states that the field is to be called the Jeffery Simmons Turf Field and that the annual football camp held there will be free of charge every year for the next 10 years. This is a fantastic partnership that provides an amazing opportunity for the kids and families in the Starkville. Sports camps are a great way to improve during the offseason or to try something new, but the cost often makes it difficult for some people to attend. But by making some of these camps free, you can provide that opportunity for improvement to some new faces that are passionate about the sport. It also allows people to sample a sport for a brief period to see if they like it, much like what Sports Matter offered at their “Chicago Sports Matter Day”.
Kids grow up fast. This means that they grow out of some of their sports equipment fast too. This leads to more costs for parents just to continue to let their kids play sports. But it also means that there is a lot of lightly used gear that isn’t being used anymore. A solution that solves both problems is to hold an equipment drive every year at your facility. The kids that have grown out of their old gear can donate it, and the kids who can’t afford to buy new gear can get the lightly used equipment that was donated. This helps to provide kids with the gear that they need to play by utilizing the equipment that might have been thrown away or left to collect dust. The Tampa Bay Sports Commission has a program called Replay Tampa Bay that collects new and lightly used gear from families and partners that they then give to families in need at their yearly sporting goods drive. You should be able to find similar programs in your area, and you can even start your own. It is a great way to help families continue to provide their kids with the opportunity to play sports.
Nobody should be denied the opportunity to play sports. And with so many great programs and foundations focused on making sports more accessible, the number of people left out continues to decline. Sometimes the people who need help in these areas aren’t aware that help is out there, so feel free to share this with anyone who might need it or implement these solutions at your sports facility. And if you are interested in bringing a sports facility to your town then contact us or give us a call at (727) 474-3845.