The Urban Sports League(USL) is a 501(c)3 is a nonprofit youth sports program currently promoting youth baseball and softball in the top 88 major metro areas of the United States. By partnering with parents, schools, communities and businesses, the organization gives inner-city children the opportunity not only to keep the great American pastime alive in urban cores, but also to benefit from the intangibles that playing a sport brings, namely its 10 Core Values: Honesty, Respect, Perseverance, Integrity, Confidence, Teamwork, Responsibility, Judgement, Giving Back and Sportsmanship. USL’s high standards of excellence, transparency and methodology directly benefit students, their parents and the communities.
Sports Destination Management: The Urban Sports League has seen tremendous growth. Is it focused on sports excellence?
Delores McKinney: It’s not a common denominator. We want kids to get out there and play – and learn important lessons while they’re at it. Once they’re out on the field, they all want to play – even the shy ones want to get out there and swing that bat. They open up, they really do.
SDM: So it’s all very positive.
McKinney: We make sure to give everyone a handshake and to say good job and we encourage the other kids to do that. We don’t go around telling them what they didn’t do or what they should have done – we want them to continue to come.
SDM: Do the parents coach as well?
McKinney: We’re trying to groom the parents now. We don’t necessarily want to have the parents coaching the kids on the field – we need to change that culture. One of our taglines is “Teaching life lessons through sports, one family at a time.”
SDM: It sounds like USL is taking a holistic approach to youth sports.
McKinney: We think it is so important to do that. We are holding the parents accountable to our core values and of course, the kids are held accountable as well. We’ll keep track of their grades, as well as their attendance and their citizenship – how they behave when they’re here. A couple of parents have told us their kids have changed as a result of the program; they really see a difference.
SDM: What specific behaviors are you teaching in the game?
McKinney: We have our 10 core values and we want them to use those throughout the game. So, for example, if they get frustrated and throw down the bat, we bring them back and teach them how to act. They listen well at this age. We also focus on healthy eating. There are no sodas here; we offer water instead. We teach them, ‘Eat like an athlete,’ and explain the ways it can affect their game.
SDM: Is it a paid program?
McKinney: There’s a fee but we do provide a scholarship if they can’t afford the program. We just want them to participate.
SDM: You spoke earlier about parents seeing the difference in kids who participate. Do you see them becoming more confident on the field?
McKinney: Yes, we do. In the beginning, you might see kids who are a little meek. After a while, they’re figuring out the strategy of the game: how to position their body at the plate or in the field. You can see they’re thinking about what to do next.
Note: Presently, the USL offers baseball programs; softball programs are also expected to be offered. A list of current and future locations for USL is available on the website.
SDM: Ultimately, USL would like to create a home base in Saginaw.
McKinney: Yes – we’d like to have a place they could go for one week a year. If you can create that pinnacle for them, you can give them an experience they’ve never had. The kids could live onsite but the families would stay offsite, like Cooperstown or any other training camp. We’ve seen it happen out there and we know it can happen with us.