inService - September 2022
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Up2Us Sports Helps Coaches Step Up

By Emily Tipping


You might be familiar by now with the kids-these-days memes that insist modern youth are overprotected, over-rewarded and just plain don't know how good they've got it compared to the generations that came before. But you can't meme away the fact that kids these days are struggling with a crushing weight of mental health issues (it's estimated that nearly half of adolescents have had a mental health disorder in their lives, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services), along with other pressing problems, from social justice and environmental degradation to political upheaval and gun violence, not to mention a global pandemic.

Coaches are uniquely positioned to help kids as they navigate this dark landscape, and Up2Us Sports is a nationwide leader in engaging and training sports-based youth development coaches, practitioners and organizations to address pressing issues facing youth in under-resourced urban communities. To date, the organization has served nearly 650,000 youth and trained almost 28,000 coaches, with 65.1% of coaches serving in their own communities.

The organization has been receiving funding for its national service coach program from AmeriCorps, the federal agency supporting national service and volunteerism, for 14 years, with the latest round of funding announced in June 2022.

This AmericCorps State and National funding will allow for up to 200 AmeriCorps members to join the Up2Us Coach program during the 2022-2023 service year. Members get training in a trauma-informed approach to coaching, ensuring they can perform a critical role in helping youth in underserved communities thrive. Up2Us Sports also receives funding at the state level, through local state commissions, including CaliforniaVolunteers, Serve Illinois, Volunteer Louisiana, PennSERVE and Serve Washington.

"Each year, we see young people facing numerous health and social inequities that impact their physical and mental well-being and their life potential," said Jack Callahan, senior national director of AmeriCorps Programs. "Up2Us Sports coaches serve as some of the most trusted mentors out there, and with the support of AmeriCorps, our team is able to expand our efforts and prove the impact that coaches have on the well-being of youth throughout the country."

Member organizations of Up2Us Sports include nonprofits, schools, recreational organizations, faith-based organizations, government agencies and other community stakeholders. All members share a common philosophy: Sports can inspire life skills among our youth.

Becoming a member, which is free, enables exclusive access to the organizations high-quality programs, which include:

  • Up2Us Coach: AmeriCorps-supported, this national service program identifies, trains and places coaches in community-based organizations across the country. To date, this program has placed thousands of subsidized coaches in low-income communities across the U.S.
  • Up2Us Vista: Also supported by AmeriCorps, this program identifies, trains and places young people in capacity-building service roles in sports-based youth development organizations. They fill rolls in fundraising, development, volunteerism, marketing and communications.
  • Up2Us Training: This program provides dynamic, participatory, evidence-based coach training to practitioners and partner organizations.

Up2Us Sports has several specific focus areas, including social justice, gender equity, career readiness and mental wellness.

She Changes the Game, for example, is an initiative focused on the importance of growing opportunities for women to coach, as well as ensuring young girls in vulnerable communities have access to sports. As part of this program, Keep Girls in Sport is an innovative digital curriculum designed for coaches, mentors and role models.

You can learn a lot more about Up2Us Sports and the important work the organization is doing in communities across America by visiting www.up2us.org.