past event

2016 Project Play Summit

In the year since the release of the seminal Aspen Institute report, Sport for All, Play for Life: A Playbook to Get Every Kid in the Game, many organizations have taken action consistent with its eight strategies for the eight sectors that touch the lives of children. At the 2016 Project Play Summit at the Newseum, 450 leaders gathered to measure progress, share learnings and discover new opportunities to build healthy communities through sport.

The featured session was with first lady Michelle Obama, her brother Craig Robinson and his ESPN colleague, moderator Michael Wilbon, co-host of Pardon the Interruption. Three kids from South Side Chicago, all grown up, reflected on their childhood, sports parenting, and the importance of making sport affordable and accessible for all youth. Obama called on stakeholders to provide quality opportunities for every child, regardless of zip code or ability. (Video, excerpts and transcript below)

“This has to become a priority in our society,” Obama said. “This affects all of us. Play and nutrition and overall investment in our kids — whether they can read and think and engage — it’s just not enough for us to be okay with so many kids not having that at an excellent level. So whatever the dollar figure is, as a society, as taxpayers and as corporate America — we should figure out how much that costs, and then pay for it. Period.”

Obama was joined by more than 60 other speakers at the sold-out summit, the nation’s premier gathering of leaders at the intersection of sport, youth and health. Among them: Mary Davis, CEO, Special Olympics International; Tab Ramos, Youth Technical Director, US Soccer Federation; Jim Whitehead, CEO, American College of Sports Medicine; Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, CEO, Laureus Foundation USA; Dr. Bennet Omalu, Chief Medical Examiner, San Joaquin County (Calif.); Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, President and CEO, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; and Billie Jean King, civil rights pioneer.

Several sessions were live-streamed, drawing more than 100,000 Facebook Live viewers, with the hashtag #ProjectPlay trending nationally on Twitter.


Opening comments
Walter Isaacson, CEO of the Aspen Institute
Lt. Gen. (ret.) Mark Hertling, member of President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition

State of Play: 2016
Tom Farrey, Executive Director, Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program

Ask Kids What They Want
What does the new research tell us?
Moderator: Jeremy Goldberg, President, LeagueApps
Tom Cove, President and CEO, Sports & Fitness Industry Association
Holly O’Donnell, National Executive Director, America SCORES
Tom Paskus, Principal Research Scientist, NCAA
Edwin Roman, Senior Director of Consumer Insights, ESPN
Carlo Carino, Participant, The First Tee – New Orleans

Reintroduce Free Play
Can large orgs drive de-organization?
Moderator: Jon Frankel, Correspondent, HBO Real Sports
Neeru Jayanthi, Director of Tennis Medicine, Emory University
Chris Marinak, SVP, League Economics & Strategy, MLB
Jason Collins, former NBA player
Jeremy Silberglied, Participant, Sports Plus

Encourage Sport Sampling
How can PE, clubs collaborate?
Moderator: Bill King, Senior Writer, Sports Business Journal
Brendan Ledwith, Coordinator, Sport Development, USA Volleyball
Sarah Lee, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention & Health Promotion
Ken Martel, Technical Director, USA Hockey
Paul Roetert, CEO, SHAPE America

Revitalize In-Town Leagues
Who will be their champion?
Moderator: Dan Shanoff, Content & Programming, Monumental Sports Network
Ryan Eckel, Vice President of Brand, Dick’s Sporting Goods
Noah Blue Elk Hotchkiss, Founder, Tribal Adaptive Organization
Rebecca Kodysh, Executive Director of Community Impact, Cleveland Indians
Max Levitt, Founder & Executive Director, Leveling the Playing Field

Building a Social Movement for Access to Sport
Billie Jean King, tennis and civil rights champion, and Risa Isard, program associate, Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program

First Lady Michelle Obama, with brother and ESPN analyst Craig Robinson, moderated by ESPN show host Michael Wilbon
WATCH below, with excerpts of Obama’s comments in The Aspen Journal of Ideas here and graphical quotes here

Think Small
Can we systematize creativity in play spaces?
Moderator: Kevin Martinez, VP, Corporate Citizenship, ESPN
Corliss Allen Solomon, Doctoral Student, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Chip Patterson, Executive Director, The First Tee of Greater New Orleans
James Siegal, CEO, KaBOOM!
Erin Smith, Director of Education and Training, US Lacrosse

Train All Coaches
How to engage the hardest-to-reach?
Moderator: Mike Fletcher, Senior Writer, The Undefeated, ESPN
Jon Feinman, Founder, InnerCity Weightlifting
Leah Friedman, Junior Development Coordinator, USTA Chicago
Tony Korson, CEO, Koa Sports
Richard Pavlick, Co-Founder, Project Leader & Coach, YLC Kicks
Daleajah Williams, Playworks Junior Coach

Design for Development
Where to next with the American Development Model?
Moderator: Caitlin Morris, Sr. Dir. for North America, Global Community Impact, Nike
Christine Bolger, Coaching Education, United States Olympic Committee
Karin Korb, Policy & Pubic Affairs Coordinator, Lakeshore Foundation
Michael Clayton, Nat’l Coaches Education Program, USA Wrestling
Tab Ramos, Youth Technical Director and U-20 Men’s Head Coach, U.S. Soccer

Emphasize Prevention
Brain Injuries: How much science do we need to act?
Moderator: Mark Hyman, Professor, George Washington University
Kevin Bieniek, Research Fellow, Mayo Clinic
Kate Carr, President and CEO, Safe Kids Worldwide
Dr. Sam Gandy, Prof. of Neurology and Psychiatry, Mount Sinai
Dr. Gerard Gioia, Division Chief, Neuropsychology, Children’s National Health System
Dr. Bennet Omalu, Chief Medical Examiner, San Joaquin County (Calif.) and Professor, University of California-Davis

Physical Literacy
How to implement the concept?
Moderator: Cedric Bryant, Chief Science Officer, American Council on Exercise
Dean Kriellaars, Associate Professor, University of Manitoba
Mike Sagas, Department Chair and Professor, University of Florida
Kathleen Tullie, Founder, BOKS

Model Communities
What works in building local coalitions?
Moderator: Steve Patrick, Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions
Renata Simril, President, LA84 Foundation
Jamie Schmill, New Orleans Program Officer, Laureus USA
Sara Couppas, Sports and Nutrition, Clinton Foundation>
Bruce Lee, Director, Global Obesity Prevention Center, Johns Hopkins University
Laurence Chalip, Professor, University of Illinois

Call for Leadership
Treetops to grassroots: How to scale a culture of health in sports?
Moderator: Tom Farrey, Aspen Inst. Sports & Society Program
Mary Davis, CEO, Special Olympics International
Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, CEO, Laureus USA
Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, CEO, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Jorge Perez, SVP, Programs and the Y Experience, YMCA of the USA
Jim Whitehead, CEO, American College of Sports Medicine

“What’s Your Play?” announcements
Among the 11 commitments to action (see all on the Project Play report website):

  • Under Armour: Committed to lifting youth sport participation rates in East Baltimore through its Project Heartbeat initiative, with the support of the Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program
  • YMCA of USA: Committed to adopting Project Play’s Sport for All, Play for Life model and its 8 Plays in a “comprehensive, major upgrade of our youth sports approach and programs,” to be scaled through the nation’s 2,700 Y’s over the next two to three years

Leaders from each of the following sectors attended the 2016 Project Play Summit: National Sport Organizations, Community Recreation Groups, Public Health, Business & Industry, Tech & Media, Policymakers & Civic Leaders; Education; and Parents. Insights shared during the event informed the conclusions of State of Play: 2016 report, a draft of which was released at the summit. The final version was released one month later and identified key developments of the past year in each of the eight strategy areas that create the framework for action in the Sport for All, Play for Life report, along with the latest sport participation rates for children and other original data.

State of Play: 2016: Trends and developments in youth sports

Washington Post coverage:

ESPN coverage and columns:

Forbes coverage and columns:

“Michelle O.: Bored kids get guns and ‘just go off on society,” by Paul Bedard, Washington Examiner

“Most youth sports have seen decline in participation since 2008, and cost plays a part,” by Dalton LaFerney, Dallas Morning News

“Project Play — Project Parent,” by Skye Eddy Bruce, the Institute for Soccer Parenting

Storify coverage of selected tweets with hashtag #ProjectPlay

White House transcript of conversation with Obama, Robinson and Wilbon

Excerpts of Obama’s comments in The Aspen Journal of Ideas

Aspen Institute media release on first lady’s participation here

Graphical drawings of panelists, plus event photos

Video of all available sessions

Creating Multi-Sport Venues: Resource released at 2016 Project Play Summit, offering guidance for sports clubs, camps, parks & rec departments, and other providers that are looking to better understand how to integrate sport sampling into their programs


2016 Project Play Summit Logos

Additional thanks to ESPN, William E. Mayer, Microsoft, and the American Heart Association for their support.

For all inquiries, contact

Event information
Tue May 17, 2016
8:00am - 8:00pm GMT+0000
Knight Conference Center
The Newseum
Washington, DC, United States