Up2Us: Nation's Youth Sports Programs Budgets Cut by $2 Billion

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Budget cuts represent loss for children and youth physically and academically

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The 'ripple effect' of these budget cuts will extend far beyond the playing fields, and represents a loss for children and youth physically, emotionally, and academically

According to new research from Up2Us, the leading national coalition of youth sports organizations, more than $2 billion was cut from the nation's youth sports programs last year alone. The data reveal that budget cuts have occurred in urban, suburban, and rural school districts in communities as diverse as Los Angeles, California, Billings, Montana and Preston, Connecticut.

"The 'ripple effect' of these budget cuts will extend far beyond the playing fields, and represents a loss for children and youth physically, emotionally, and academically," said Paul Caccamo, Executive Director of Up2Us. "Sports participation isn't just about improving your serve or throwing a touchdown pass, but about instilling lifelong, positive character traits like strength, commitment, and dedication."

"The impact of the recession and these budget cuts are being felt in our programs, and negatively affecting our ability to serve the children and families who depend on us," stated Jai Nanda of Urban Dove, a New York City program that combines recreation with education, and whose four programs serve hundreds of children.

Research has demonstrated that children and youth who play sports are:

  • Less likely to suffer from childhood obesity or lifelong medical conditions including diabetes and asthma
  • Less likely to join gangs, drop out of school, or experience teenage pregnancy
  • More likely to do well in school and graduate from high school and college

Hard hit by the recession, schools across the nation find themselves in the position of cutting programs and activities once viewed as essential, or asking parents to pay for children to participate in sports (called "pay to play"). Worcester, MA high school students wishing to play football must pay $1,000 for the twelve week season. At Oregon's Parkrose High School, dance team members must pay $525. And in Minnesota's Eastern Carver County School District, youth athletes must pay more than an average of $215 to participate in sports including gymnastics, swimming, cross country and wrestling.

"Families are being asked to pay to have their children play sports, and sports programs across the country are experiencing serious cuts or shutting their doors altogether because families can't afford to pay," said Caccamo.

The $2 billion figure was the result of research commissioned by Up2Us and was presented in conjunction with the two-day "Bringing Change Through Youth Sports" conference in Washington, DC. Convened by Up2Us, this marks the first national conference of sports-based youth development organizations. More than 80 organizations serving more than 2 million children across the nation attended the conference, which focused on the impact these budget cuts are having and solutions to address them.

"The budget cuts witnessed in programs across the country and the proliferation of pay-to-play could have a profound impact on athletes across the country. Nike supports Up2Us as it explores innovative solutions to respond to this crisis including the role of public-private partnerships," said Orson Porter, Nike's US Director of Government and Public Affairs. "Given the importance of sport to the health and well-being of millions of young people, it is imperative that we do whatever it takes to keep kids on the playing field."

In a keynote address to the conference, Laureus World Sports Academy member and former tennis legend Monica Seles, said "Tennis gave me the leadership and life skills that I have carried with me throughout my career. Every day, children involved in sports programs gain similar skills that will help them succeed both on and off the court playing field or gymnasium. Sport provides an important base for a healthy life, it can provides self esteem, confidence, respect and teamwork. Cuts to these programs mean that more children will lose out on the ability to discover the fun in having a sport that they love and, as importantly, develop the skills that come along with that."    

Seles passed on a message to the conference from Edwin Moses, Olympic gold medal hurdler and Chairman of the Laureus World Sports Academy and Sport For Good Foundation, "Participating in track and field taught me about hard work, dedication, good sportsmanship and perseverance - traits that helped drive my success as an athlete, as a student and as a person. During these tough economic times, we must work to find ways to continue to fund sports programs for young children because these programs instill the framework that leads to them becoming productive adults."

About Up2Us - Up2Us is the leading national coalition that seeks to increase the impact of, and access to, youth sports as a tool for positive youth development. With more than 200 member organizations - serving an estimated 7 million kids - Up2Us is focused on increasing the quality and quantity of youth sports programs, involving more children in sport-based youth development programs and engaging more adults to work with, volunteer for and donate to these programs. For more information, or to view the research report, visit http://www.Up2Us.org.

Contact: Gina Russo, Up2Us, 202-421-3578

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