Aspen Institute Partners on Youth Sports Initiatives in Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

The Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program announced that the Project Play Summit, the nation’s premier gathering of leaders building healthy communities through sports, will be in Baltimore, Maryland on May 14-15, 2024.

Project Play’s 11th annual youth sports conference, presented by Under Armour, returns to the site of its first community State of Play report. In 2017, the Aspen Institute published State of Play Baltimore, the program’s first analysis of how well a local community is providing quality access to sports and physical activity for all children. The 2024 Project Play Summit will reflect on the work accomplished in Baltimore since then, identify learnings in Baltimore and across the nation by innovators, and chart next steps to build healthy communities through sports.

Project Play’s first community model initiative in 2017 was Project Play Baltimore, with a specific focus on a two-square mile area of East Baltimore, where Under Armour helped renovate a recreation center in 2016. State of Play Baltimore identified potential short- and long-term community strategies to get and keep all city youth physically active.

The Project Play Summit will be held at UA House at Fayette and Johns Hopkins University. Speakers will be announced in the coming months. Past speakers included Michelle Obama, Kobe Bryant, Billie Jean King, Adam Silver, Allyson Felix and Alex Morgan. Sign up now on the Project Play Summit presale ticket list. Media interested in attending should email [email protected] for more information.

Lessons learned in Baltimore will be highlighted at the Project Play Summit. More than 500 attendees from across the country and internationally attend the Summit, representing all eight sectors that Project Play recognizes as touching the lives of children: community recreation groups, national sport organizations, policymakers and civic leaders, education, parents, public health, business and industry, and tech and media.

In 2017, Under Armour partnered with Baltimore City School Schools on Project Rampart, which commits to providing all public high schools that participate in interscholastic athletics with resources meant to improve student athletic and academic performance. Sports directly impact graduation rates. Among the graduating class of 2019, Baltimore students who participated in sports all four years of high school had a 98.5% graduation rate. Students who did not participate in one sport had a 62.9% graduation rate.

Since launching Project Rampart, Under Armour has overseen the physical renovations of the schools’ gyms to state-of-the-art facilities and outfitted every team athlete with best-in-class uniforms. In addition, Under Armour has connected both athletes and their coaches to other tools and experiences that promote skill and personal development.

Under Armour has also commissioned the Aspen Institute to analyze the state of youth sports in Washington D.C., for a report coming in 2025. About 55% of D.C. youth ages 6-17 played on a sports team or took sports lessons in 2020 and 2021, according to the National Survey of Children’s Health. D.C. youth who are Black (46%) played sports far less than those who are White (76%). Girls (50%) played less than boys (60%).

State of Play Washington D.C. will build on the initial work of Fight For Children, in partnership with Project Play, to understand the youth experience related to sports and physical activity. Fight For Children’s Youth Development Institute is a collaborative network of 34 D.C.-based nonprofits focused on improving the lives of youth through sport, serving more than 30,000 District youth who will be critical to the year-long analysis of sports and physical activity opportunities for young people, regardless of gender, race, income or ability. An advisory group of local leaders will guide the report, which will include survey results from youth about their sports experiences, along with qualitative findings and community-sourced recommendations on how to grow sports access.

State of Play Washington D.C. is the 16th community report of the Aspen Institute’s Project Play initiative, which develops, applies and shares knowledge to build healthy communities through sports. Previous reports have helped mobilize leaders across sectors to set shared agendas, shape government policies, develop innovative partnerships, and unlock tens of millions of dollars in grantmaking.