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What is a Sports Nonprofit Organization? Defining Sports and Social Change - Part 1: Sports Programming for an Underserved Community

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Sports Programming for an underserved community

This is usually the easiest category to explain to the uninitiated, as the basic premise with these types of organizations is to provide a sports program or physical activity to a community of people who otherwise would have limited or no access. Here is where we find sports programs for people with physical disabilities, intellectual disabilities, and programs for economically underserved communities. The sports programs themselves are wide ranging and can include all types of team sports such as baseball, soccer, basketball, hockey and lacrosse, and individual activities like surfing, skateboarding, cycling, golf, swimming and running. 

Implementation costs and logistics vary greatly here depending on the chosen sports activity, the program capacity and the size of the community being served. Access to facilities and equipment are much needed here, as they are usually paramount to service delivery. After-school programs commonly fall into this category, as the ability to utilize school grounds and facilities alleviates one big hurdle; although, that may also bring with it logistic / transportation challenges and liability issues.

What these programs do share are many of the tangible benefits and life-skills that are gained through sports participation:  Discipline, preparation, teamwork, leadership, commitment, mental strength, goal-setting, overcoming obstacles, and most of all, fun. Add in the overall benefit of physical health and well-being - one that many participants might overlook because they're having so much fun - and you have the recipe for an impactful program.

Here are some examples of sports nonprofit programs for these communities.

Sports Programs for People with Intellectual Disabilities

A.skate Foundation -
The A.skate Foundation holds free skateboarding clinics for children with Autism and provides grants for them to purchase skateboarding gear. Since Skateboarding is primarily about creativity and self-expression and not bound by rules, A.skate has found the sport a viable outlet for kids in the Autism spectrum. "Autism, like skateboarding, can be unpredictable and often times unruly. We embrace the parts of autism that are hard to understand and give these kids an outlet that is free of rules or judgment..."

The Miracle League -
The Miracle League provides opportunities for children with developmental disabilities to play baseball and promotes the construction of special baseball fields and facilities that meet the unique needs of players with disabilities and their families. In addition, Miracle League has created accessible and adaptive playgrounds for  children with physical and developmental challenges. There are 225 Miracle League programs across 44 US States,  Puerto Rico, Australia and Canada, serving over 80,000 children and young adults with disabilities.


Sports Programs for People with Physical Disabilities

US Power Soccer Association -
The USPSA is the US governing body for Power Soccer, the first competitive team sport designed and developed specifically for power wheelchair users. Athletes' disabilities commonly include quadriplegia, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, among others. There are over 60 registered teams throughout the country, and the USPSA develops and manages Team USA, which competes every four years in the FIPFA Power Soccer World Cup.

Blind Judo Foundation -
The Blind Judo Foundation provides financial support, training and coaching to blind Judo athletes, and professional development activities, information and educational for coaches on how to work with visually impaired children and adults. The foundation also runs programs for US Military “Wounded Warriors” who can benefit greatly from the physical and mental rehabilitation the sport of Judo provides. Blind Judo Foundation founder Willy Cahill is the former USA Judo Olympic and Paralympic team head coach.

Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) -
According to U.S. Paralympics, there are 21 million individuals living with a disability in the United States today. Only one in 10 takes part in fitness activities on a daily basis. Challenged Athletes Foundation provides funding, training, education and support to "help people with physical challenges get involved, and stay involved, in sports." Since 1994, they've distributed over 5,000 grants to help athletes - including many former and current Paralympians - compete in a wide range of sports.

Sports Programs for Economically Underserved Communities

SkiDUCK operates and supports skiing and snowboarding programming for disabled and underprivileged children in the Western US. They assist other organizations in fulfilling their goals by providing additional funding, coordinating with providers, and sharing best-practices. In areas where the skiing and snowboarding needs of disabled or underprivileged children are not currently being served, they establish a sustainable model of service with local resources and volunteers.

Pitch in for Baseball -
PIFB collects and redistribute new and gently-used youth gloves, bats, balls, uniforms and other baseball and softball equipment to underserved communities in the United States and around the globe. They commonly work with leagues and programs in each community they serve, that have the ability to distribute the equipment and have a demonstrated track record of working with kids. "Baseball gives them the structure and freedom to be kids while making good decisions for their future. Kids not only have fun, but also learn important lessons for their future like teamwork, sportsmanship and dealing with adversity."

Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) -
RBI is a Major League Baseball initiative whose mission is to increase urban and inner city youth interest and participation in baseball and softball by re-introducing, reviving, and rebuilding America’s pastime in underserved communities. RBI programs have been started in more than 200 cities worldwide, and annually provide more than 200,000 boys and girls the opportunity to play baseball and softball. The Jr. RBI playing divisions for baseball and softball players ages 5-12, has more than 90,000 younger boys & girls participating in the RBI program. MLB and its Clubs have designated more than $30 million worth of resources to the RBI program and all 30 Major League Baseball Clubs have supported RBI programs.



Also read:

Defining Sports and Social Change - Part 2: Sports Programming as a Development Tool

Defining Sports and Social Change - Part 3: Sports as a Platform for Advocacy, Awareness & Fundraising

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