Submitted Testimony of Rob Smith, Executive Director, Youth Sports Collaborative Network

Joint Virtual Hearing Before DC Council's Committee on Education and Committee of the Whole

June 4, 2020

I am submitting testimony on behalf of the Youth Sports Collaborative Network ( and its DC members. YSCN is a national member association for nonprofits providing positive youth development programs through sports. Most are low cost or free, after school and provide children in under-served communities with their only access to organized sports and fitness programs. These programs are quite different from the competitive, pay for play 19+ billion-dollar youth sports business in the news these days.

The sports-based youth development (SBYD) programs I am representing offer more than just how to play a sport. As the President & CEO of the U.S. Soccer Foundation explained in his July 2019 Chronicle of Philanthropy Opinion, these well-designed programs show “the importance of fair play, how to participate as part of a team, how to compete hard but within the rules, and how to lose with grace.”

While these sports programs help counter overweight and obesity problems more prevalent in low income youth, they also reinforce and assist in academic success by improving school attendance and providing general homework assistance, literacy and STEAM tutoring, civic engagement, nutrition, arts, and mentoring.

In February, I had the privilege of submitting testimony before DC Council’s Committee on Education and the Committee of the Whole about the benefits these after school youth sports programs in DC provide, a time when COVID-19 was viewed as a distant problem overseas. Within a month after my testimony, our entire country moved to shutting in and DC children confined to their homes – no school or after school.

The purpose of my testimony is to remind the Council of the important benefits these programs have been providing children from DC’s underserved neighborhoods and the impact the pandemic is having on these programs. The benefits I cite are based on a survey YSCN conducted taken by nine different DC youth sports nonprofits in early February.

The nine nonprofits are DC SCORES (soccer), First Tee of DC (Golf), Fort Dupont Ice Arena (Hockey/Ice Skating), Girls on the Run-DC (Running), Nationals Youth Baseball Academy (Baseball/Softball), Playworks Mid-Atlantic (Recess activities/Seasonal Sports), Teens Run DC (Running), WINNERS Lacrosse (Lacrosse), and Washington Tennis and Education Foundation (Tennis). Our survey of these nine provides a representative sample of the program benefits being provided DC youth and the needs of these nonprofits to serve DC’s at-risk children.

In total, 23,000 children in 2019 participated in these programs, a 13% increase from 2018.

All nine nonprofits offer after school programs, though Playworks is mostly during school, and 7 have summer programs as well. In addition to sports these programs also provide critical additional educational and youth development support including general homework assistance, literacy and STEAM tutoring, civic engagement, nutrition, arts, and mentoring.

These nonprofits are providing programs to children throughout the city, with all nine serving Ward 5 and eight serving Wards 6, 7 and 8. Further, these nonprofits are important partners of the DC School system with 7 of them delivering their programs at DC schools, and some even involving teachers from these schools.

All nine nonprofits serve low income children, with 7 charging no fees to 50% on up to 100% of the children in their program. One program has a low seasonal fee of $10.  Seven of the 9 nonprofits provide programs for a minimum of 60 minutes a day between 3 – 5 days a week for more than 24 weeks during a year. Further, 95% of these programs are serving children between the ages 5 – 14.

Only 5 of these 9 nonprofits surveyed are receiving any DC government funding. Grants being received include Learn24’s Out of School Time, the Office of State Superintendent Education’s Healthy Tots and Nutrition Education and Physical Activity, and the Department of Parks and Recreation for sports programming.

Further, all 9 raise additional funds from Events, Giving Tuesday, and Foundation Grants, and 8 also depend on Board Donations, E-mail/Online Solicitations, and Corporate Sponsorships. As a result, these nonprofits bring additional, nongovernmental investment dollars to help more at-risk children and by hiring local residents.

Not surprisingly, eight nonprofits also listed obtaining new sources of funds as their top challenge in 2020, with adding more children a close second. Due to the pandemic, funding is an even more important challenge for these youth sports nonprofits, especially since in-person events have been such an important source of funding.

And while stay at home restrictions has resulted in these nonprofits being unable to provide their in-person sports and academic support programs, they have employed digital communications for coaches/mentors to stay in touch with the youth in their programs and where possible continue offering a variation of their much-needed programming. A good example is SCORESatHome ( being offered by DC SCORES.

The economic havoc that the pandemic has brought to the entire country will make private sector fund raising an even greater challenge than projected by these youth sports nonprofits at the beginning of the year. The DC government as a source of reliable funding for these nonprofits providing afterschool SBYD programs becomes even more important.

We understand the increased financial challenges facing the DC government due to the pandemic. We are grateful for the revised DC budget that OST grant funds have not been reduced. We encourage the DC Council to protect the funding allocated to education and Learn24 in the FY21 budget.

Thank you.