BOSTON, MA – Last year, only 38% of kids ages 6 to 12 played team sports on a regular basis, down from 45% in 2008, according to research from the Aspen Institute’s Project Play initiative. Instead of mitigating the problem, organized youth sports teams are actually contributing to it; from excessive injuries to burnout to discouragement and demoralization, the pressures and demands are actually forcing them out. And not to mention the lack of access for kids whose parents can’t afford league fees, uniforms and travel costs.
Boston-based Arnold Worldwide, international non-profit Aspen Institute, and media conglomerate ESPN have teamed up to launch Don’t Retire, Kid, a public service announcement designed to keep more kids in the game. The creative created by Arnold underscores the overwhelming number of children who are “retiring” from sports prematurely, attributed to the pressures, stress and rising costs associated with playing sports, which detract kids from the joy and fun they should be experiencing from the game.
“To address this issue head-on, we teamed up with the Aspen Institute and ESPN to develop this creative in a way that compels parents and coaches to introspect and ask themselves: am I part of the problem?” says Icaro Doria, Chief Creative Officer at Arnold. “By inviting Kobe Bryant, Wayne Gretzky, Sue Bird, Mookie Betts and other respected athletes into the conversation, we’re hoping to create an impact that’s even bigger than ourselves by encouraging kids to stay in the game.”
The first PSA in the series spotlights a young boy announcing his retirement from sports, and the second showcases a young girl announcing her retirement from a soccer field.
“At ESPN we believe sports should be available to every child,” said Jimmy Pitaro, President of ESPN. “We want to shed light on this important issue so that kids can take advantage of the benefits of sports, from increased health to better outcomes in school. ESPN, together with our league and business partners, have committed to working together to address this issue.”
The campaign is also backed by the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, U.S. Tennis Association, and other members of Project Play 2020, a group of 20 leading organizations in sports, media, health, technology and retail who have come together to grow national sport participation rates.
“Parents are the game-changers in youth sports,” said Tom Farrey, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society Program. “To keep kids playing longer, we need to help parents ask the right questions of themselves, their child and their local sport providers. I commend the organizations at the center of Project Play 2020 for showing the leadership to keep sport in the lives of more children.”
The Don’t Retire, Kid campaign was inspired by Project Play 2020, comprised of leading organizations that aim to grow national sport participation rates and related metrics among youth. The members of Project Play 2020 are Amazon, American College of Sports Medicine, DICK’S Sporting Goods, ESPN, Hospital for Special Surgery, Global Obesity Prevention Center, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, NBC Sports, National Hockey League, Nike, New York Road Runners, PGA of America, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, The Sports Facilities Advisory | The Sports Facilities Management, Sports & Fitness Industry Association, Target, Under Armour, U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, and U.S. Tennis Association. Technical guidance is provided by Ketchum and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.