Take it from Phaidra Knight, retired professional rugby player, who speaks in the above video about the value of funding initiatives like Sports 4 Life:”It really doesn’t matter your speed, your size, it’s just what you bring, your unique self, to the game,” said Knight. She went on to emphasize that with sports, young people have the opportunity become part of a team, which can lead to personal growth and improved self-confidence. “I think it’s so important, especially that girls from disadvantaged backgrounds have that opportunity. That is sometimes their ticket and access to greater things across the board.”
The Sports 4 Life Initiative is particularly aimed at increasing and retaining African-American and Hispanic girls in youth sports programs. Sports 4 Life was cofounded by the Women’s Sports Foundation and espnW in 2014. This year, the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation also joined the initiative, providing regional support to eight organizations in Southeast Michigan and Western New York.
The Women’s Sports Foundation was founded by Billie Jean King in 1974 with guiding mission of strengthening and expanding access for girls and women to all sports. As many of us know, sports participation can be an important window of opportunity for young girls, but there is such a huge gap in attention given to girls in sports versus men and boys. Every day, just for fun, I scroll through all the sports sections of the news online, just to see how many times I see a woman or a girl. It’s probably less than 10% of the time. How often do I see a woman or girl of color? Probably 5 to 10%. A sliver of a sliver.
Programs like Sports 4 Life are aimed at providing more parity for girls of color across a wide range of sports. “Even more than we believe in the power of sports, the Women’s Sports Foundation believes that all girls – regardless of race, ethnicity, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, ability, zip code or family income – deserve equitable access to the lifelong benefits of sports,” said Deborah Antoine, CEO of the Women’s Sports Foundation.
Since Sports 4 Life began in 2014, the Initiative has awarded 200 grants totaling more than $1.1 million, and reaching more than 50,000 girls nationally. This year, the Initiative’s community partners were particularly successful in increasing opportunities for girls of color, with more than 85% percent of girl participants being African-American or Hispanic.
Learn more about the 2018 grant recipients here.
The Women’s Sports Foundation will begin accepting applications for 2019 this fall. For further information and timelines for the 2019 grant cycle, please visit www.WomensSportsFoundation.org/Sports4Life.