project play research archive

No one can improve youth sports on their own. Since 2013, Project Play and its partners have worked collaboratively to produce many materials on youth sports. In addition to Project Play's featured reports, here are some useful documents to guide what good looks like in youth sports.


Project Play Summit 2013: Highlights and Observations: The first Project Play Summit, held with 80 high-level leaders in April 2013 in Aspen, Colorado, was summarized in this report. 

Kid-Focused, Coach-Driven: What Training is Needed? Project Play convened more than 30 national sport and coaching leaders at the U.S. Olympic Training Center for insights discussed in this paper on developing a simple, scalable, affordable platform to help youth coaches deliver early, positive experiences. 

What is the Status of Youth Coach Training in the U.S.? Researchers Garrett Beatty and Bradley Fawver summarized relevant literature and available data concerning how training programs influence coaching approaches, and inevitably retention of youth athletes.

Early Positive Experiences: What is Age-Appropriate? Project Play convened more than 25 national leaders to discuss ideas in this paper about anchoring the disjointed U.S. sports system in the principles of developmentally appropriate play.

What Does the Science Say About Athletic Development in Children? Researcher Michael Sagas summarized five prevailing questions regarding early specialization and the role of practice and play in the development of skill acquisition and expertise in sports.


espnW/Aspen Institute Project Play Survey of Parents on Youth Sports Issues: Project Play teamed with espnW for a national survey on parents about topics such as the importance of winning, injury concerns, and the costs of playing sports. 

Field of Dreams: Innovate and They Will Come? Project Play convened 41 leaders to discuss ideas in this document on how to grow the supply of safe play spaces that meet the needs of all children. Leaders also considered ways that hosting the Olympics could best leave a legacy of community facilities.

Places to Play: A Summary of Key Characteristics of the Built Environment that Support "Sport for All, Play for Life" communities: Researchers J.O. Spengler and Ori Baber presented evidence from multiple disciplines and sectors of the five built environment settings identified in Nike's Designed to Move reports that encourages physically active lifestyles.

Aligning for Impact: Delivering Early Positive Experiences at Scale: Project Play convened more than 30 national leaders to discuss ideas in this document about the roles and opportunities of foundations, corporations, government, and health care sector organizations in the youth sports space. 

Funding for Youth Sport: Learning from the Past and Aligning for the Future: Researchers Bradley Fawver and J.O. Spengler used this report to address funding for past and present social movements, review key historical events which have promoted sport and play in the U.S., and describe the available opportunities for youth to play on teams and the associated costs. 

Digital to Physical Play: Can Tech Make it Happen? Project Play invited 50 leaders from the realms of technology, media, business innovation, and academia to discuss ideas in this paper looking at how technology could help improve youth sports.

Off the Bench: How to Get Health Pros into the Game of Youth Sports? Project Play convened more than 50 leaders to discuss ideas in this paper to grow local connections, local quality, and local credibility in youth sports.

Getting and Keeping Kids in the Game: A Summary of Key Recommendations by Medical and Health Groups: J.O. Spengler summarized key recommendations relevant to youth sport espoused by leading medical and health experts and organizations, and demonstrated areas of consensus on youth sport within the medical and health communities.

Designing for Universal Access: How to Reach All Kids? Project Play convened 25 national leaders in sport, health and coaching to discuss insights in this document about the barriers faced by populations with the lowest sport participation rates and how to create opportunities for these children.

Sport Participation Rates Among Underserved American Youth: Researchers Michael Sagas and George B. Cunningham aggregated and summarized sport participation data by social class, race, gender, and disability status.


Where's the Money? Research on innovation in financing sport, recreation spaces: Researchers J.O. Spengler and Ori Baber used research slide decks to examine who uses recreational spaces and sports facilities, the primary objectives of these spaces, the financing mechanisms, and the quantity of these spaces in the U.S.

Orleans Parish State of Youth Sports and Physical Activity: The Laureus Sport for Good Foundation and the New Orleans Sports Based Youth Development Coalition teamed with Project Play for a report looking at the opportunities for youth in sport and physical activity in the Orleans Parish of New Orleans.

Youth Profiles from Orleans Parish State of Youth Sports and Physical Activity: Project Play put faces to the statistics in New Orleans, producing intimate, honest portraits of five local children, most of whom have just enough resources or luck to gain access to a youth sports experience.

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