Detroit to Host the Aspen Institute’s Project Play Summit in September; First Speakers Announced

August 14, 2019

Former NBA star Chris Webber and NCAA champion gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field to discuss the importance of youth sports and the state of play

Washington, DC, August 14, 2019– The fifth Project Play Summit will take place September 17-18 at the Renaissance Center in Detroit, MI, marking the first time the summit has been scheduled outside of Washington, DC. The nation’s premier gathering of youth, sports and health leaders takes measure of the state of play and charts next steps in building healthy children and communities through sports. Project Play is an initiative of the Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society Program, and the Project Play Summit will take place with the support of the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, Hospital for Special Surgery, Nike, Target, and NBC Sports.

The first batch of speakers to be announced are:

  • Chris Webber: Five-time All-NBA player, University of Michigan star, Turner NBA analyst
  • Valorie Kondos Field: Seven-time UCLA NCAA champion gymnastics coach, who says gymnastics needs a pathway for non-elite kids
  • David Brooks: New York Times columnist, best-selling author, executive director of Aspen Institute’s Weave project to renew America’s social fabric
  • Cassidy Hubbarth (emcee): ESPN NBA reporter and host, college football host

More speakers and the full agenda will be shared in the coming weeks on the Project Play website. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan will provide welcome remarks at the event. University of Michigan baseball coach Erik Bakich will be a featured speaker.

“If we’re going to be successful in our city’s comeback, we need to do everything we can to support our youth,” said Mayor Mike Duggan. “We’ve made great strides improving recreation and sports opportunities for the children of Detroit, thanks to great partners like the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation.  I am deeply appreciative of the Aspen Institute for recognizing this progress and bringing the first Project Play Summit outside of our nation’s capital to the City of Detroit.”

“Southeast Michigan is site of the nation’s most ambitious experiment in recent decades to build healthy communities through sports and recreation,” said Tom Farrey, Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program executive director. “The investments made and actions taken by the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan, and other partners make Detroit an ideal venue to advance the national conversation about how to get and keep kids active through sports. We look forward to sharing learnings with thought leaders from across the country.”

Editor’s Note: Members of the press are invited to apply here for credentials to cover the 2019 Project Play Summit. It will take place from 8:30am Tuesday, September 17 to 4:30pm, Wednesday, September 18 in the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center. For more information, contact

The 2019 Project Play Summit will feature:

  • Two full days of programming and networking. Includes 12 workshops on how to bring Project Play’s eight strategies from idea to action in communities nationwide.
  • Hoop Dreams at 25. A quarter-century after the popular basketball documentary showed two young Chicago kids trying to use basketball to improve their lives, what’s changed in youth basketball?
  • How to help all kids sample sports. Meet program leaders who have cut through cultural and financial barriers to introduce lesser-played sports to kids in minority communities.
  • Meet the unretired. Hear from kids and their parents on how they avoided or overcame obstacles that almost forced them to “retire” from sports.

The Project Play Summit follows the launch of the #DontRetireKid campaign by the Aspen Institute, ESPN, and partners. PSAs depict a boy calling a press conference to announce his retirement from sports, while a girl leaves the sideline to end her career prematurely. The average child quits playing a sport by age 11. most often because the sport just isn’t fun anymore. Parents report that kids as young as first grade are feeling stressed – and families are under pressure to cover rising costs, according to research that was released by the Aspen Institute to accompany the campaign.

Last year, only 38% of kids ages 6 to 12 played team sports on a regular basis, down from 45% in 2008. The PSAs in the campaign draw attention to the fact that too many children are “retiring” from sports prematurely, due in part to pressure from adults and pressure on families to cover escalating costs of participation.

About Project Play
An initiative of the Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program, Project Play develops, applies and shares knowledge that helps stakeholders build healthy communities through sports. For more information, visit

About the Aspen Institute
The Aspen Institute is a nonpartisan forum for values-based leadership and the exchange of ideas. Based in Washington DC, the Institute also has campuses in Aspen, CO, and on the Wye River in eastern Maryland, and maintains offices in New York and several other cities. For more information, visit


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