Pandemic Plunges Low Income Youth Participation by 84% in Critical Sports-Based Youth Development Programs

SILVER SPRING, Md., Feb. 11, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — In a national survey conducted by the Maryland-based Youth Sports Collaborative Network (YSCN), youth sports programs serving low-income communities reported 84% of their 146,000+ registered youth have not regularly participated in their programs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This result was notwithstanding 71% of these nonprofits implementing for their youth a variety of new virtual training and communications with coaches to stay in touch.

The 82 surveyed programs are nonprofits operating in 32 cities across the country. Each serve youth that qualify for school lunch programs, and two-thirds offer their programs free of charge. Collectively, these nonprofits are providing over 28 different sports and fitness programs, along with 20 different non-sport youth development programs that includes educational support in homework assistance, literacy and STEAM.

Most of these nonprofits utilize the sports-based youth development (SBYD) model that uses the delivery of sport to intentionally achieve positive non-sports outcomes. These include social emotional learning, pro-social relationship skills such as fair play and respect for one’s opponent, and better academic performance.

“Belonging is a basic human need, and creating belonging is a core product of SBYD programs,” said Bethany Henderson, Network President of Washington, DC based America SCORES. “That is why SBYD programs play such a critical role in supporting children and teens’ mental resiliency and social-emotional wellbeing. Integrating non-sports elements into SBYD programming increases those impacts exponentially, and expands them to include school engagement and academic attainment.”

In fact, 93% of the surveyed sports nonprofits collectively offered a wide range of additional critical youth development programs. Mentorship, academic support, civic engagement and career/job planning were the 5 most widely non-sports programs of the 20 provided across the 82 nonprofits.

While travel and other pay to play youth sports teams returned to play over the summer, few programs in our survey were able to do so as they primarily conduct their programs at fields and facilities of schools and local parks and recreation which were closed or had limited access.

Not surprisingly, without in-person programming 81% of the survey’s nonprofits are very concerned with the health and wellness of their program youth. This concern also is supported by reports across the country on the limitations/challenges with virtual education.

“SBYD programs are critical to a child’s holistic education. The closing of schools and increases in mental health challenges brought on by the pandemic have made SBYD programs more important than they have ever been before,” said  Mike Levin, CEO of Los Angeles based Harlem Lacrosse. “We have prioritized safe, in-person programming, when possible at Harlem Lacrosse because we know that our programs are most effective and our students are most connected when they can be around their coaches and teammates.”

The Youth Sports Collaborative Network ( is a national member association for those nonprofits providing affordable sports programs to low-income youth and/or implementing SBYD in their programs. The survey was conducted on the UpMetrics ( data analytics platform.

America SCORES ( is a national network of 12 local programs (11 in the U.S. / 1 in Canada). Every America SCORES elementary and middle school soccer team also writes and performs original poetry together and designs and carries out service projects together, transforming a team sport experience into a holistic mind, body, and soul experience.  The results: 98% of America SCORES poet-athletes gain confidence, 90% are more resilient, 89% improve aerobic capacity, and our poet-athletes are 3x more likely than peers to reach ELA standards.

Harlem Lacrosse ( is a school-based non-profit organization that changes the life trajectories of youth through daily wrap-around academic support, mentoring, leadership training, college readiness, career exploration, admissions counseling and lacrosse instruction. Harlem Lacrosse has programs in 5 U.S. cities.

Media Contact: Rob Smith, Founding Executive Director,
/ 301-580-6630 for full survey results.

SOURCE Youth Sports Collaborative Network