CHICAGO — It started when a handful of organizations got together to discuss the effect of the COVID-19 shutdown on youth sports.
The small conversation quickly turned into 600-some groups. Then it cruised past 1,000 on its way to 3,000 organizations and individuals signing on for the PLAY Sports Coalition — a united effort by the youth sports world to push for federal help with the coronavirus crisis.
“The momentum keeps growing,” said Terri Lakowski, the CEO of Active Policy Solutions, a lobbying firm that lists sports, health and youth development among its specialties. “There’s just this huge community out there of youth sports providers who are hurting and want to work together for a solution.”
The leaders of the coalition are trumpeting the importance of youth sports and sounding the alarm about the future of their organizations in correspondence with legislators in Washington. The fate of providers in low-income communities is of particular concern.
Nearly 60% of local sports leaders expect to lose at least 50% of their revenue over the next year, according to an Aspen Institute for Sports online poll from April.
“This is an important issue,” said Wayne Moss, the executive director of the National Council of Youth Sports. “It’s a timely issue, and young people right now are up against it in terms of the possibility of not being able to participate.”
One of the objectives for the coalition is the creation of a loan program for youth sports organizations. Congress passed a $2.2 trillion virus relief package in March that included a Payroll Protection Program for small businesses, but it wasn’t designed for youth sports organizations that rely more on volunteers and independent contractors.
“Having the calculation for relief being based on an employee basis just doesn’t really get the kind of relief that these organizations need,” Lakowski said. She said such aid would be better based on gross receipts or operating loss.
The relief fund was included in legislation proposed by U.S. Rep. Max Rose, a New York Democrat, last week. It also proposes an expansion of the child and dependent care tax credit to include expenses for youth sports and other recreational activities, and it would ensure health savings and flexible spending accounts could be used for expenses related to youth physical activities.
The coalition is looking for more support.
“I mean especially right now with everything kids are dealing with and the scariness of the world, having the outlet of sports and the mentors and leaders that coaching provides is even more critical now than ever,” Lakowski said. “And so we need to ensure that the infrastructure of youth sports and youth sports organizations can survive so that kids have the outlet that sports provide.”