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

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

February 12, 2020

Good Day. My name is Rob Smith, Founding Executive Director of the Youth Sports Collaborative Network (www.youthsportscollaborative.org). 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 underserved communities with their only access to organized sports and fitness programs. These programs are quite different from the competitive, pay for play 15+ billion-dollar youth sports business in the news these days.

The sports-based youth development programs I’m here to talk about 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.” In addition, these programs often reinforce and assist in academic success by improving school attendance and providing homework support that contributes to improved grades.  

DC is fortunate to have a variety of such nonprofits serving the city, and I am here to provide the Committee with an overview of the breadth of these programs. Nine different DC youth sports nonprofits participated in a survey last week to provide for the first time aggregate quantitative data on their work in DC.

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).

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 different academic and youth development support including general homework, literacy and STEAM tutoring, civic engagement, nutrition, arts, and mentorship.

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.

These nine are not the only DC sports-based youth development nonprofits. However, 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 more children.

The DC government has been a very important source of funding. However, to serve more children, particularly at no cost for children in need, the DC government is asked to provide additional funding for these effective, nonprofit youth development sports programs.

Accordingly, the Youth Sports Collaborative Network supports the DC Alliance of Youth Advocates request for an additional $5,174,000 in after school and summer programming.

Thank you.