For those of us who competed in team sports in our youth, or who now cheer our children or grandchildren on from the sidelines, we know firsthand the powerful, life-long benefits of participating in sports. Sports can serve as a bridge to a healthier and happier life for young people. Studies have shown that children who participate in sports have fewer psychological difficulties, including depression, anxiety and social withdrawal.
Team sports participation is linked to improved academic performance for students across all income levels and demographics, urban and rural youth alike. Playing sports teaches teamwork, commitment and sacrifice, and it can build lifelong friendships. [Text Wrapping Break][Text Wrapping Break]Beyond the individual benefits, our entire society wins when kids play, with multiple studies noting the positive physical, mental, emotional and even economic implications. Youth who participate in sports are less likely to develop long-term health problems, and playing sports has proven to be an effective tool in keeping them from falling into a cycle of anti-social behavior, violence, crime, and drug use. Talk about a win-win.
We also know that for some children, a chance at a college athletic scholarship is a life-altering opportunity, and that sports participation in college is also linked to a better chance of graduating with a four-year degree. However, faced with the financial barriers to participating in competitive club sports, many young people are at risk of missing out on that opportunity.
In the U.S., families are estimated to spend $30-$40 billion each year on youth sports, with each child’s primary sport costing nearly $900 per year. At those rates, families with lower incomes struggle to afford the cost of participation. As a result, children from low-income families are six times more likely than their higher-income peers to quit sports because of those costs.
At the same time, colleges are increasingly recruiting their elite-level athletes from club sports rather than the teams at local public high schools. For kids and families who are hoping or counting on an athletic scholarship to make it through college, the ability to participate in club sports is becoming more and more a necessity.[Text Wrapping Break][Text Wrapping Break]Seeing the problem, we decided on a solution. We met in the State Capitol, one of us a Democrat representing far northeast Denver, the other a Republican from Littleton, and we found common ground through a shared vision to help level the playing field in youth competitive sports. We joined forces to launch Chance Sports, a new non-profit that provides financial assistance to Colorado youth from low-income families to access competitive sports programs and to learn leadership and team-building skills that will benefit them on and off the athletic field.
To help families overcome the financial hurdle, Chance Sports partners with local sports clubs to offer scholarships to lower-income athletes, creating accessible pathways to a brighter future. Funding is awarded to athletes to cover club and tournament fees, travel expenses, uniforms, and equipment.
As Chance Sports enters its first full year of operations, we have ambitious plans to support 300 athletes across basketball, field hockey, football, lacrosse, soccer, track and field, volleyball and more, with scholarships ranging from $750 to $3,000 per athlete, per season, depending upon the sport. This first year of support would not have been possible without major investments from the City and County of Denver and the Daniels Fund, including a $200,000 matching grant from the private foundation to incentivize more contributions.
In addition to financial support for athletes, Chance Sports will host leadership events for our participants and their families to meet fellow athletes, hear from local sports and business leaders and learn positive life skills from both amateur and professional athletes. For too many kids the opportunity to play competitive club sports is financially out of reach. They have the talent and the determination but lack the financial resources. Chance Sports is removing these barriers through partnerships with sports clubs and generous donors. Together, we can level the playing field for our kids so they can do what they do best — play.
James Coleman is a state senator from Denver, representing District 33. Colin Larson is a former state representative from Littleton who represented District 22 and today is director of government affairs for the Colorado Restaurant Association. Together, they are cofounders of Chance Sports, a nonprofit organization that provides financial assistance and leadership training to youth athletes in Colorado.