We All Need to Work Together to Encourage and Promote Participation in Youth Sports

By ADM Brett P. Giroir, MD, Assistant Secretary for Health and LCDR Katrina L. Piercy, PhD, RD, Physical Activity and Nutrition Advisor, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

Today marks nearly one year since our office launched the National Youth Sports Strategy (NYSS). This was the first federal roadmap that aims to unite U.S. youth sports culture around a shared vision. That vision, as stated in the NYSS, is “that one day all youth will have the opportunity, motivation, and access to play sports — regardless of their race, ethnicity, sex, ability, or ZIP code.”

NYSS Champion badge

Despite the historic challenges this past year with COVID-19, our office has remained committed to implementing the NYSS and to promoting the importance and benefits of regular physical activity. Today we are launching the NYSS Champions, a partnership initiative to recognize organizations leading or supporting youth sports. We are pleased to announce today the initial 42 organizations who have demonstrated their support of youth sports and a commitment to the NYSS vision.

Our website provides an interactive map and information to learn more about these organizations. We are excited that many are working with underserved populations, including girls, racial and ethnic minorities, youth from low-income neighborhoods, and youth with disabilities—all groups who are less likely to have access to sports. We look forward to expanding our list of NYSS Champions and encourage organizations who want to improve the youth sports landscape in the United States to join our network.

Even though youth sports participation may look different these days, many are finding creative ways to foster connection and support physical activity. This summer, the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP) and the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition (PCSFN) hosted a series of virtual workshops with over 100 youth sports stakeholders in different regions across the country. During these workshops, ODPHP and PCSFN learned more about the impact of COVID-19 on youth sports, and participants discussed how to reintroduce programs in the wake of the pandemic. Participants worked together to identify solutions for the challenges they are facing and committed to specific action items to work toward achieving the NYSS vision. Although each region faces unique challenges, youth sports organizations across America face several common challenges, including decreased funding, programmatic changes, youth and family engagement, and compliance with COVID-related policies. Despite these challenges, we’ve also heard, resoundingly, that communities and organizations are committed to bringing back sports programs that are safe, fun, inclusive, developmentally appropriate, and accessible to all youth.

This past year the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, & Nutrition reinstated the Science Board as a subcommittee of the Council to examine the research related to youth sports. Thanks to their efforts, we now have a more complete picture of the benefits of youth sports and science-based evidence to support implementation of the NYSS. Of particular interest are the mental health benefits to youth that are associated with sports participation, which include lower rates of anxiety and depression, lower levels of stress, higher self-esteem and confidence, reduced risk of suicide, less substance abuse and fewer risky behaviors, improved psychological and emotional well-being for individuals with disabilities, and increased life satisfaction. These are the types of benefits that youth need most right now to help them be more resilient as they face the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. The work of the Science Board underscores the importance of continuing our work to implement the NYSS.

We invite you to tune in today (September 17) at 1 PM to watch the virtual President’s Council Annual Meeting, learn more about our work to implement the NYSS, and hear about the official launch of NYSS Champions. Preregistration is required. You can also keep up to date with the latest information from the President’s Council and ODPHP by following @FitnessGov and @HealthGov on Twitter.

Categories: News & Announcements, Spotlight