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

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

March 9, 2021

Good Day. My name is Rob Smith, Founding Executive Director of the Youth Sports Collaborative Network (YSCN). YSCN is a national member association for nonprofits providing Sports-Based Youth Development (SBYD) programs.

Much of my testimony today will share with you the results of a national survey conducted by YSCN in September 2020 and taken by 82 nonprofit providing Out of School Time SBYD programs. This survey is unique as it reveals the impact of these nonprofits’ programs prior to and during the COVID shut down through the 2020 summer.

It is important to understand that SBYD is a validated model of youth development that uses the delivery of sport intentionally to achieve positive non-sports-based outcomes including social emotional learning; critical pro-social relationship skills such as fair play and teamwork; better academic performance; and improved health and wellness. Currently, most of these programs in the U.S. are often being provided to youth from under resourced communities.

I testified last February before a joint hearing of the Education Committee and the Committee of the Whole. No one at the time was thinking our country was a month away from a COVID lockdown.

Before last March’s lockdown, these 82 nonprofit survey participants were from 32 U.S. cities helping over 146,000 registered youth. At the same time, DC had 9 different SBYD nonprofits take our survey with nearly 12,000 registered youth. 71% of these 82 nonprofits pivoted after the lockdown to provide their youth with socially safe virtual training programs and communications with their coaches. 7 of the 9 DC programs were virtual only as well.

However, by June these nonprofits had only 16% of their March registered youth regularly participating in their programs. However, the nine DC programs had a more favorable 32% of youth participating in their programs.

The nine DC programs participating in our national survey are DC SCORES (soccer), First Tee of DC (golf), Fort Dupont Ice Arena (hockey/ice skating), Girls on the Run (Running), Nationals Youth Baseball Academy (baseball/softball), Soccer for Success – a U.S. Soccer Foundation program run by the Department of Parks and Recreation (soccer), Teens Run DC (Running), WINNERS Lacrosse (Lacrosse), and Washington Tennis and Education Foundation (tennis).

DC is very fortunate to have these and other respected SBYD programs serving the youth of Washington, DC.

Of these nine programs:

  • All 9 provided after school programs and 8 summer,
  • All 9 had Black and LatinX youth in their programs and 8 white youth,
  • All had a percentage of their registered youth qualifying for Federal Lunch Program,
  • 6 of the 9 required no fees for 96 – 100% of their youth,
  • 7 of the 9 also offered academic support in homework help, literacy or STEAM, and
  • 6 of the 9 offered their programming 30 or more weeks a year.

It is useful to note at this time last year 8 DC nonprofits when asked to list their top 3 challenges had the same top 2 answers:

  • Obtaining new sources of funding and
  • Expanding their programs to include more children.

The third ranked challenge had a tie with 4 nonprofits selecting each of the following two responses:

  • Transporting Children and
  • Maintaining current sources of funds each had 4 nonprofit responses.

These same DC’s nonprofits reporting on their top 3 challenges during COVID resulted in a 3-way tie with 6 nonprofits selecting each of the following:

  • Maintain current sources of funding,
  • Obtain New Sources of Funding, and
  • Connect with youth given the ban on in-person programming.

All 9 DC nonprofits have multiple funding sources, with 6 receiving funding from the DC government. While funding is a major issue before and during COVID, only one expressed real concern they would have to close down operations by the end of 2020. However, all had different levels of concern, from somewhat to extremely, about the health and wellbeing of their youth without in-person programs.

As reported in the Washington Post and other news media, virtual schooling has produced an unfortunate learning loss for too many youth across the U.S., especially those from under resourced communities. Many of the after school and summer academic support programs being offered by SBYD nonprofits can be helpful in overcoming this learning loss.

The effectiveness of DC SBYD programs has been recognized by the multiple funding sources that these nonprofits have been able to secure. Now more than ever as DC youth come back to in-person schooling, the DC government needs to continue, and yes expand, its funding of these important OST nonprofits.


For more information about our research and other programs, please go to www.youthsportscollaborative.org or send an email to [email protected]