Get Out and Play

December 5, 2019  • Institute Staff

This year’s Project Play Summit was an away game, venturing outside Washington for the first time in its five-year history. Detroit welcomed the summit of 550 leaders at the intersection of youth, sports, and health—the largest turnout in the event’s history. Through two days of panels and workshops, participants discussed getting all kids equitable access to sports and physical activity. Former NBA and University of Michigan star Chris Webber implored parents of youth basketball players to become more involved—and more aware of the pressures of youth sports. “I can’t imagine the pressure of being 12 years old and being told you can make it to the NBA when you don’t have the skills, but a coach told you that to keep you around,” Webber said. “That’s scary.” Former UCLA gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field talked about preventing sexual-abuse scandals, such as the recent crisis in USA Gymnastics. She said adults must “silence our brains and stop trying to be right and figure out how to respond. Just shut up and listen to our children.” Special Olympics chairman Tim Shriver said the biggest problem facing sports is clustering kids around ability levels, a structure that narrows the field and stigmatizes players. And University of Michigan baseball coach Erik Bakich described how he was an “overzealous” parent who watched his son quit travel baseball before finding joy again in a less competitive league. Other speakers included NFL player C.J. Anderson, ESPN broadcaster Cassidy Hubbarth, and NBC Sports broadcaster Kyle Martino.