To mark a decade of building healthy children and communities through sports, the Aspen Institute’s Project Play Summit will be hosted by the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee in Colorado Springs, May 17-18.
As the nation emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, parents and policymakers have greater appreciation for the physical and mental health benefits of children staying active. Project Play Summit attendees – both local and state residents as well as national leaders – will explore the fresh set of challenges and opportunities, including the role of the Olympic and Paralympic movement, to tactically make that happen as they chart next steps.
Project Play, the flagship initiative of the Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program, will celebrate its 10th anniversary by bringing the Summit outside of Washington D.C. for just the third time. The 2019 Summit was held in Detroit, and the 2013 Summit launched Project Play from Aspen, Colorado.
The Summit moves this year to Colorado Springs because it is home to the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC), a hosting sponsor of the Summit, and dozens of national governing bodies of sports. Leaders from these organizations will be among more than 500 people attending the Summit, which is presented by Nike. Additional Summit sponsors include Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, Hospital for Special Surgery, GoodSport and Colorado Springs Sports Corporation, which was instrumental in helping to bring the Summit to Colorado Springs.
“Having the Project Play Summit here in Colorado Springs is truly special," said Megan Leatham, president and CEO of the Colorado Springs Sports Corporation. “Initiatives such as the Project Play Summit are so important and we are thrilled Colorado Springs, Olympic City USA, will play a role in 2023.”
U.S. soccer legend Julie Foudy and author Kevin Carroll will serve as the Summit’s emcees, with more speakers to be announced. Past Summit speakers included Michelle Obama, Kobe Bryant, Allyson Felix, Billie Jean King, Alex Morgan, Tony Hawk, Terrell Owens, Jeremy Lin and Adam Silver. Events will be held at the Ent Center for the Arts and U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum.
Project Play identifies gaps in access to quality sport activity and mobilizes organizations for action through research, dialogue, resources, thought leadership and network building. Project Play’s youth sports playbook is widely regarded as a unifying model to grow access to sports for all kids ages 6-12. In 2022, Project Play released its school sports playbook to help school leaders update the traditional high school sports model.
Only 37% of U.S. children ages 6-12 regularly played team sports in 2021, showing progress from earlier in the pandemic yet down from 45% in 2008, according to the Aspen Institute’s State of Play 2022 report. Fewer children play sports due to early-sport specialization, high costs to play, and fewer quality recreational opportunities. The average child quits sports by age 11, most often because it isn’t fun anymore.
“If the pandemic has reminded us of anything, is it the value of sport and physical activity to young people,” said Tom Farrey, Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program executive director. “The Project Play Summit is where we pump new ideas into the bloodstream that can trigger system-level change in the development of sport opportunities for youth. We are thrilled to bring the Summit to Colorado Springs.”
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