Sloane Stephens Helps ESPN Launch “Don’t Retire, Kid” Campaign Aimed at Increasing Youth Sports Participation


Sloane Stephens Helps ESPN Launch “Don’t Retire, Kid” Campaign Aimed at Increasing Youth Sports Participation

Tennis star Sloane Stephens is part of ESPN’s new public service campaign, Don’t Retire, Kid, created in partnership with the Aspen Institute’s Project Play. The 2017 US Open champion taped a public service announcement for the initiative, which is aimed at reversing a national trend of diminishing participation in youth sports.

Sloane Stephens – Don’t Retire, Kid from ESPN Visual Communications on Vimeo.

Youth sports participation rates nationwide are in decline and ESPN is addressing the crisis and bringing awareness to the issue by exclusively launching Don’t Retire, Kid. The goal is to help increase sports participation rates among youth in the United States. In 2018, only 38% of kids aged six to 12 played team sports on a regular basis, down from 45% in 2008, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.

“At ESPN we believe sports should be available to every child,” said Jimmy Pitaro, President of ESPN. “We want to shed light on this important issue so that kids can take advantage of the benefits of sports, from increased health to better outcomes in school. ESPN, together with our league and business partners, have committed to working together to address this issue.”

According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, girls participate in sports at lower rates than boys, with urban and rural girls dropping out of sports at twice the rate. An additional PSA highlights the fact that 69% of girls do not play team sports on a regular basis. Both PSAs, as well as the campaign creative, were developed by Arnold Worldwide, and will run across ESPN and ABC.

In addition, ESPN networks will air a series of vignettes with sports stars discussing why youth sports are important and addressing the reasons kids are not participating. In addition to Stephens, featured vignettes include:

  • Kobe Bryant, former NBA star
  • Wayne Gretzky, former NHL star and head coach
  • Sue Bird, WNBA player for Seattle Storm
  • Mookie Betts, right fielder for the Boston Red Sox
  • Geno Auriemma, head women’s basketball coach of the University of Connecticut
  • Muffet McGraw, head women’s basketball coach at Notre Dame
  • Julie Foudy, two-time FIFA Women’s World Cup champion and Olympic gold medalist

ESPN will incorporate campaign messaging and discuss the importance of youth sports during live MLB, Little League World Series and X Games telecasts. Additionally, the network will share youth sports stories across its digital and linear platforms featuring kids, parents and athletes digging into the issues and highlighting success stories. ESPN, ESPN commentators and athletes across multiple sports will also post unique spots on their social handles to discuss the importance of youth involvement in sports with the hashtag #DontRetireKid.

“In addition to coverage on our media platforms, ESPN also is investing in nonprofit organizations to help break down the barriers to participation, especially for the most vulnerable populations,” said Kevin Martinez, vice president of ESPN Corporate Citizenship. “This initiative is part of ESPN’s Access to Sports program, which has already enabled over 1.4 million people to participate. We will continue to invest in youth sports programming so that everyone can keep playing.”

Don’t Retire, Kid
The Don’t Retire, Kid campaign is part of the Aspen Institute’s Project Play 2020. ESPN alongside a consortium of 20 organizations have aligned their missions to help combat attrition rates among youth. To learn more about the initiative and organizations involved, please visit

“Parents are the game-changers in youth sports,” said Tom Farrey, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society Program. “To keep kids playing longer, we need to help parents ask the right questions of themselves, their child, and their local sport providers. I commend the organizations at the center of Project Play 2020 for showing the leadership to keep sport in the lives of more children.”

Resources are available on, where parents can find a host of resources to help them navigate the often confusing and frustrating world of youth sports. Among them: Project Play’s playbook with eight strategies to keep kids in the game; how to find the right sport based on health benefits and risks; free online training on how to coach kids more effectively; and checklists for parents based on a child’s age and activity level.

About ESPN Corporate Citizenship
ESPN believes that, at its very best, sports uplifts the human spirit. Its corporate citizenship programs use power of sport to positively address society’s needs through strategic community investments, cause marketing programs, collaboration with sports organizations and employee volunteerism, while also utilizing its diverse media assets. For more information go to

About Project Play
An initiative of the Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program, Project Play develops, applies and shares knowledge that helps stakeholders build healthy communities through sports. For more information, visit

About The Aspen Institute
The Aspen Institute is a nonpartisan forum for values-based leadership and the exchange of ideas. Based in Washington DC, the Institute also has campuses in Aspen, CO, and on the Wye River in eastern Maryland, and maintains offices in New York and several other cities. For more information, visit


Dave Nagle

As I write this on 11-11-21, it's now 35 years for me at ESPN, the only real job I’ve ever had. I joined merely to help with the upcoming America’s Cup in Australia. I was told it would be for three months at all of $5.50 per hour. I like to say I simply kept showing up. I’ve worked on almost every sport, plus answered viewer calls and letters (people used to write!), given tours, written the company newsletter and once drove NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon to the local airport. My travels have been varied…I’ve been to Martinsville, Darlington, Indy and Super Bowls; the America’s Cup (all 3) in San Diego and College GameDay in the sport’s meccas such as Eugene, Auburn, Lubbock, Stillwater and more; the NBA Finals, Wimbledon (16 times and counting) and the “other Bristol,” the one with a race track in Tennessee. These days, my main areas are tennis, UFC, boxing, network-wide ratings (by month/quarter/year), and corporate communications documents, including fact sheets, chronologies, lists and nearly 35 of the Year in Review press releases. UPDATE EXACTLY ONE YEAR LATER: Today, November 11, 2022, I am retiring from ESPN -- 36 years to the day I began. As I ride off into the sunset – top down and E Street Radio blaring – I do so with so many wonderful memories, proud of my contributions and a heart full of gratitude for the opportunity. 
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