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A Sporting Chance

Being active changes young lives—so how do we invite more children into the game?

Playing sports can transform a child’s life by offering lessons about teamwork, instilling a feeling of pride, and providing a sense of belonging. But many children don’t have access to organized sports programs, either because of cost or a lack of transportation, or due to language or technological barriers to filling out the required forms.

That’s where America SCORES comes in. This nonprofit organization partners directly with schools to administer sports-based youth development and literacy programs to children in urban areas across the nation. Yuri Morales ’03, chief program officer at America SCORES Bay Area, says, “The impact is huge because it provides access where there is none, and it provides opportunities for kids to experience joy, to be connected to their classmates in a different way, to build friendships and connections.”

You matter. You belong here. I see potential in you.

Morales adds, “Sometimes there are kids who are having a tough time in school, and when they join the team it provides them with an outlet for some of that stuff, a place where they really feel like they belong. And I’d say even more importantly, [it gives them] a mentor, a coach, a caring adult who can reach out to the kid and say, ‘You matter. You belong here. I see potential in you.’”

One way to get more kids involved in sports is by increasing access to recreational games and activities. “The operators of public and private athletics facilities and parks should give more access to local community members by providing time, space, and equipment for unstructured play,” Morales suggests. Right now, athletics fields and facilities are often so overbooked by corporate soccer leagues and other groups that many children don’t have a safe space to play. “I think if there were more opportunities for safe, unstructured play,” he says, “more kids would find a lifelong joy of sport.”

Read on: UMass senior Alannah Scardino ’21 is also working to increase access in sports, particularly for girls and women.