Seeking Fair and Just Access to Youth Sports for All

All kids deserve a fun, safe place to play where they feel like they belong. Research shows that when children play sports, they increase their chances to grow up healthy, feel good about themselves, build friendships, develop skills like teamwork and respect, and are more likely to succeed in school and in their future careers.

The majority of park and recreation agencies — five in six — provide and/or facilitate local youth sports programming. As leaders in their communities, it is essential that park and recreation professionals center equity-based best practices in their youth sports programs, facilities and policies to ensure that all children have access to a safe and welcoming youth sports experience.

While 86 percent of park and recreation professionals agree that they contribute to a fair and just future for youth sports, there are still significant disparities in who has access to youth sports opportunities.1 Many youth — particularly Black, Indigenous, youth of color, youth living in low-income households, girls, and youth with disabilities — are at greater risk of being left behind without physical activity. Plus, widening economic inequities are disproportionately impacting youth from diverse backgrounds who already face additional barriers in accessing quality youth sports opportunities. According to the Aspen Institute, the rate of youth sports participation among children in households with incomes of $25,000 or less is half that of participation among youth from households with an income of $100,000 or higher.

To help bridge the gap, NRPA is working with park and recreation professionals and our partners to bring stakeholders together in service of developing tools, resources and creative solutions that increase access to quality youth sports for all. This strategy places equity at the center, focuses on multi-sport solutions, and recognizes the power dynamics and vast differences between and among communities. By doing so, we can connect professionals with the resources they need and be an advocate on their behalf.

With support, NRPA can continue to invest in youth sports programming that reduces the gap in access so all kids can experience the joy and benefits of youth sports.


Communications Toolkit: Attracting Families to Your Youth Sports Programs

Park and recreation professionals build important relationships with parents, caregivers and families in their communities to work toward a world in which every child can access park and recreation sponsored sports programs. To raise awareness about the benefits of these programs, NRPA has developed a communications toolkit, in partnership with The Walt Disney Company, to help park and recreation professionals make connections and encourage participation in park and recreation youth sports programs. This toolkit provides data-backed messaging, sample social media posts, template graphics and more.

Download the Toolkit


Boosting Youth Sports Registration at Your Agency

In addition to the toolkit above, NRPA has developed a suite of new resources to showcase all the reasons park and recreation youth sports are a great option for kids. Easily shareable with families in your community, these resources include:

  • An interactive website that demonstrates the benefits of park and recreation youth sports
  • A downloadable conversation guide for families to connect with their child about which sports they might like to play

Visit the site

NRPA developed these resources to support agencies in increasing engagement with youth sports offerings. Use our sample social media posts to share them with families in your community today!

Download Sample Posts

Youth Sports Research Report

In July 2020, the NRPA Research Team conducted a survey of park and recreation leaders to better understand the current state of youth sports programming at park and recreation agencies. The survey asked about youth sports programs, focusing on agency partners, fee structures and activities that park and recreation agencies use to promote greater access.

The findings from the Youth Sports at Park and Recreation Agencies report highlight how park and recreation professionals not only provide opportunities for youth sports, but also contribute to the development of youth into healthy, active adults. Despite their key role in youth sports delivery, park and recreation agencies face many challenges — including not enough volunteer coaches and a system that prioritizes winning over fun — to deliver quality youth sports programming.

View the Report


Youth Sports and Play Grant Program

Park and recreation professionals across the country are working together to develop more equitable access to youth sports and play opportunities for all. Brought together with the support of NRPA and as part of the Walt Disney Company’s commitment to create healthier generations, the Youth Sports and Play Grant provides park and recreation professionals with resources, technical assistance and funding to implement park projects that increase equitable access to play. This grant program aims to break down barriers in access to play, equip professionals with skills and strategies that fill gaps in access to and participation in youth sports community-wide, and drive conversations around access to play and youth sports.

Partner Spotlights

NRPA is working with leading youth development organizations to support equitable access to youth sports and play opportunities for all.










Partnership Opportunities

To learn more about NRPA’s youth sports initiatives and how we can work together to increase access to youth sports for all, contact Teresa Morrissey, NRPA project manager at


1Science Daily,

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