The Women’s Sports Foundation and ESPN released today a seven-year summative data analysis measuring girls’ leadership, self-esteem, confidence and perseverance gained via their joint Sports 4 Life program. As the country continues to grapple with the ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the long overdue need for racial justice, WSF and ESPN are working together to create youth leadership opportunities for girls of color through sport. As these character traits are strong building blocks for girls’ futures, local sports programs play a critical role, often filling in the gaps to access and opportunity.
To mark the initiative’s seven-year anniversary, a summative evaluation study was conducted to analyze its impact to date. Through surveys of program leaders and participants, findings showed that girls were more physically, mentally, and socially healthy when participating in Sports 4 Life funded programs. The girls rated themselves highly in perseverance, self-efficacy in sports and exercise, leadership and athletic identity and body image. For example:
- 97% of the girls agreed that they keep trying until they reach their goal.
- 96% believed that they could be really good at a new sport if they tried it.
- 92% said they believed their body was getting healthier through their sports program.
- 86% said that they saw themselves as leaders.
The initiative, co-founded by WSF and national partner espnW in 2014, is based on the knowledge that while sports participation offers tremendous life-long benefits – from improved physical health and self-esteem, to better grades in school and enhanced leadership skills – girls of color are disproportionately excluded. Sports 4 Life was designed to help increase participation and retention of African-American and Hispanic girls in developmental youth sports programs. The initiative is inspired by the organizations’ beliefs that sports can unlock possibilities for girls and transform their lives.
“As a long-time supporter and new board member of the Women’s Sports Foundation, I’m a big believer in the transformative power of sports,” said LaChina Robinson, ESPN Studio Analyst and Sideline Reporter, “I’m excited to see that more than 86 percent of Black and Hispanic girls who participated in the Sports 4 Life program see themselves as leaders as a result of sports. Sports have positively impacted my life in so many ways, both on and off the court.”
The pandemic has put many independent community programs in jeopardy, and youth in under-resourced communities are being hit hardest of all. The funding provided to Sports 4 Life community partners is helping to uplift and sustain invaluable opportunities for girls of color. The success of the program as evidence by the summative report data, shows that a return to play is crucial to continue to instill girls with the lifelong benefits that come with sport participation.
Further evidence of the impact and benefit of the Sports 4 Life initiative can be seen on ABC’s Localish. Feature stories on community partner programs Beat the Streets and Lost Boyz showcased the lasting impact of sports on young girls lives.
“The Women’s Sports Foundation exists to enable all girls and women to reach their potential in sport and life; to unlock their limitless possibilities through the power of play,” said WSF President-elect, Phaidra Knight. “As a Black female athlete, attorney, World Rugby Hall of Famer, and an entrepreneur, I know first-hand how community sports programs can help nurture a girl’s sense of self and ambition. We are proud of the positive impact Sports 4 Life is having on girls across the country, and we are grateful to espnW for helping to create this initiative.”
Data was also collected from program leaders to gain their perspective on Sport 4 Life’s contributions to youth development. Many reported that after a single season of participating in their respective sports programs, the girls were far more likely to be involved in sports, leadership, and community activities, compared to when they first entered the programs. For example:
- 66% reported that girls were likely to be participating regularly in extracurricular activities (up from 27%)
- 56% reported that girls were likely to be involved with community-based groups (up from 20%)
- 73% reported that girls were interested in being leaders at school or in their community (up from 15%)
Further, the summative data showed several commonalities among these exemplary community partners. Many programs focus on empowering girls through gender-informed programming and build up a strong community of female and racially diverse coaches to provide girls with greater opportunities for relationship-building and mentorship. Parent support is also crucial to girls’ success, with 91 percent of programs indicating that they work to get parents actively involved in their daughters’ sport.
Since its inception, the Sports 4 Life initiative has served 157 community-based organizations in 34 states (plus Washington D.C. and U.S. Virgin Islands), with over $1.4 million in grant awards with ESPN reaching more than 60,000 girls in over 34 sports.
WSF has further explored the impact of the Sports 4 Life program through its newly-published Communities at the Forefront Report, and recently announced the new class of 2020 Sports 4 Life grant recipients. For more information on both, visit www.WomensSportsFoundation.org
About Women’s Sports Foundation
The Women’s Sports Foundation exists to enable girls and women to reach their potential in sport and life. We are an ally, an advocate and a catalyst. Founded by Billie Jean King in 1974, we strengthen and expand participation and leadership opportunities through research, advocacy, community programming and a wide variety of collaborative partnerships. The Women’s Sports Foundation has positively shaped the lives of millions of youth, high school and collegiate student-athletes, elite athletes and coaches. We’re building a future where every girl and woman can #KeepPlaying and unlock the lifelong benefits of sport participation. All girls. All women. All sports.® To learn more about the Women’s Sports Foundation, please visit www.WomensSportsFoundation.org.
About ESPN Corporate Citizenship
ESPN believes that, at its very best, sports uplift 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 www.espn.com/citizenship.