History of Project Play

The Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society Program in 2013 launched Project Play, a multi-year, multi-stage effort to provide the thought leadership for stakeholders to build healthy communities through sport. From the launch, it took countless convening session at roundtables, televised town halls and other events with thought leaders from the realms of sports, medicine, media, business innovation, government and philanthropy to foster dialogue and create breakthrough strategies to build Sport for All, Play for Life communities.

 Following these convenes, in January 2015, we released "Sport for All, Play for Life: A Playbook to Get Every Kid in the Game," a 48-page report that amounts to the nation’s first-ever framework for how to provide all children – regardless of zip code or ability – access to high quality, affordable sport activity. The report consist of eight strategies for the eight sectors that touch the lives of children.

 More on Project Play, including upcoming events, can be found at the initiative’s website here.

 Project Play identified eight promising strategies that stakeholders can use to help every child become physically active through sports. They are:

1.       Ask Kids What They Want

2.       Reintroduce Free Play

3.       Encourage Sport Sampling

4.       Revitalize In-Town Leagues

5.       Think Small

6.       Design For Development

7.       Train All Coaches

8.       Emphasize Prevention

To learn more about the eight strategies check out the Sport for All, Play for Life report.

Project Play: Baltimore

Project Play: Baltimore was created in response to the Surgeon General Vivek Murthy’s charge at the 2015 Project Play Summit, “to take [the Project Play report] literally on the road to impact communities, engage kids and (improve) health outcomes”.

Motivated by this call to action, Under Armour announced its partnership with the Aspen Institute at the 2016 Project Play Summit, in an effort to create the conditions to grow access to youth sports in Baltimore. By this commitment, Project Play’s first model community was born. The focus of the initiative will be on East Baltimore, where Under Armour, along with community and brand partners, opened the UA House community center in November 2016.

Project Play: Baltimore is designed to serve and inspire communities while building a roadmap for future implementation in East Baltimore and beyond. However, no single organization can do this alone. Only through teamwork can leaders and caregivers expand the quality and quantity of sport experiences for local youth so they can receive all of the associated physical, mental and social-emotional benefits.  

 The goals of Project Play: Baltimore are to:

1.       Create the conditions to lift sport participation rates for youth (through age 17)

2.       Develop a model that urban areas can use to grow access to sports

3.       Create the conditions to tell a great story that inspires other communities

History of Baltimore

Baltimore, Maryland is one of the most unique cities in the United States. It’s a city of great character and charm with nicknames, B’more and Charm City, and slogans, “The Greatest City in America” and “Believe”. From an historical perspective, Baltimore is known for being home to The Star-Spangled Banner, but in the more modern-era, the city is best known for its Maryland blue crabs, crab cakes, and Old Bay seasoning.

Among other attractions like historical sites, art and cultural venues, and festivals, Baltimore is a place for sports and home to many professional sports teams – the Ravens, Orioles, Blast, and Brigade (new AFL team) – and amateur sports for adults and youth.  There is a love for sports like no other here in Baltimore and that love started from the emergence of Babe Ruth, one of greatest and beloved baseball players of all time, yet still a mythical figure of the city. The role of recreational sports in Ruth’s boyhood, helped to address the urban ills he faced, which ultimately gave him the foundation to develop into a pro athlete. This model of sports blossomed into and graced American culture. Baltimore embraced this sports culture through its creation of recreation centers that anchored communities throughout the city. As a result, the city has a rich history of developing its children and communities through sports participation.

Although, over the years, things like recreation center closures, unmaintained outdoor play spaces, and lack of sports in the schools have hurt the level of youth sports participation.  Yet, in an effort to create better access to high-quality and affordable sports, the city is embarking on the next chapter to expand the quality and quantity of sport experiences for local youth.

In November 2016, Under Armour along with community brand partners, opened the UA House community center. And, in that same month a Children and Youth Fund was voted on and passed in the city election.  This is only the start to a new beginning for Baltimore, a city that is looking for innovative and collaborative ways to build healthy communities through sports.