Encourage Sport Sampling: Taking Next Steps

Since launch in 2013, Project Play has been a national leader in establishing the benefits of multi-sport play and addressing the trend of early specialization that can heap undue pressure on children and unsustainable costs on families. “Encourage Sport Sampling” was one of the eight strategies identified in our seminal playbook on how to get and keep kids active through sports, and in 2015 more than 40 organizations — from national governing bodies to the professional leagues, media companies to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation — endorsed multi-sport play through age 12, at a minimum.

In 2018, we took next steps, working with the Association of Chief Executives for Sport (ACES) to help national sport organizations develop more policies and partnerships that are supportive of sport sampling. It’s a key step, as it is difficult for any one organization to find success on its own. In today’s youth sports arms race, telling kids to play other sports can feel like an act of unilateral disarmament.

ACES distributed a nine-question Project Play checklist for National Sport Organizations to advance sport sampling — a key priority of the Project Play 2020 advisory group and a core concept of the U.S. Olympic Committee’s American Development Model — and encouraged members to participate.

As a result of this commitment, ACES was honored as a Project Play Champion at the 2018 Project Play Summit.

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Project Play Bobsled

At the 2017 Project Play Summit, USA Bobsled & Skeleton provided a Sport for All, Play for Life bobsled that is currently active on the professional racing circuit.

The commitment was announced by Darrin Steele, CEO of USA Bobsled & Skeleton, which created a bobsled with the Project Play logo and tagline, Sport for All, Play for Life. That bobsled, seen here at the 2017 Project Play Summit, is currently used for racing on the bobsled professional circuit.

In 2019, Project Play almost tripled the number of organizations participating in the initiative (from 11 to 30) and tripled the number of boxes checked by organizations, detailing commitments to further programs and practices in support of multisport participation.

Below is a current list of organizations participating in our sport sampling initiative, and the boxes they check on our checklist:

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 Interested in how your national sport organization can participate in this program? Contact Emily Stets (emily.stets@aspeninstitute.org and 202-464-4320) for more information.

Encourage sport sampling webinar

On Thursday, May 9, 2019, Project Play, in partnership with the National Council for Youth Sports, hosted a webinar entitled, Encourage Sport Sampling Webinar: Spotlight on National Organizations. This webinar highlighted the efforts of three key organizations — U.S. Lacrosse, Disabled Sports USA and U.S. Youth Soccer — and their best practices in implementing sport sampling into their policies and programs.

The webinar recording is available here, on the left, and the slides are available here. We will also aggregate the resources mentioned in the webinar and list them here.


See below for the specific sport-sampling resources mentioned during the webinar.

Disabled Sports USA

  • Disabled Sports USA training and education resources

  • Disabled Sports USA event calendar

  • Youth-specific resources for adaptive sports

  • Sport-specific how-to guides to make sports adaptable

  • Challenge Magazine: a publication of Disabled Sports USA, providing adaptive sports information to adults and children with disabilities, including those who are visually impaired, amputees, spinal cord injured (paraplegic and quadriplegic), and those who have multiple sclerosis, head injury, cerebral palsy, autism and other related intellectual disabilities.

  • Adaptive equipment supplier listing, which identifies adaptive sports equipment

  • Find your local Disabled Sports USA chapter through the local club listing

U.S. Lacrosse

For more ways to encourage sport sampling in your community, visit www.sportsengine.com, the largest online youth sports directory in the U.S., to learn about and to register for sports programs right in your area. 

More REsources

Encourage Sport Sampling: How to Use the World’s First Healthy Sport Index

Released in October 2018, the Healthy Sport Index offers recommendations on complimentary sports for health promotion as well as skill development, along with an assessment of the health-related benefits of playing the most popular sports. This panel from the Project Play Summit explores how to use the data-driven resource. Companion content: Healthy Sport Index website and TIME coverage.


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As part of Project Play 2020, the Aspen Institute Sports & Society program partnered with a top ad agency, Arnold Worldwide, to create assets that organizations can use on their platforms to promote sport sampling. If your organization would like to use the digital banner at left, please contact Emily Stets (contact information above).

If you would like to use this graphic in your digital media, please contact Emily Stets (emily.stets@aspeninstitute.org and 202-464-4320).