Dick's, ESPN Lean In To Help Young Athletes

The beginning of the school year also signals the start of the season for many young athletes, and two powerful new campaigns aim to protect those kids from different enemies.

Dick’s wants people to be aware of massive budget cuts, and ESPN is pointing a painful finger at parents.

Dick’s, through its Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation’s Sports Matter, is aiming to break your heart as real kids from real communities around the country read “To whom it may concern” letters cutting off funds for their athletic programs.

The campaign’s goal is to give 1 million kids the chance to play sports by 2024.



The spots, from Anomaly, were filmed in Birmingham, Alabama, and many of the kids come from nearby Fairfield High School. That school is getting a $25,000 grant from the foundation.

While budget cuts threaten athletes everywhere, many kids face a bigger adversary at home: Parents who push too hard.

ESPN’s new effort, themed “Don’t retire, kid,” aims to keep kids involved in sports. It‘s inspired by new research that probes the reasons only 38% of kids ages 6 to 12 played team sports on a regular basis in 2018, down from 45% in 2008. (And 69% of girls drop out of sports.)

The National Youth Sport Survey, commissioned by Aspen through its Project Play initiative, finds that while parents say they want sports to be fun for kids, they also want it to make them healthier, develop social and physical skills and help with peer relationships. But many are also looking for an external payoff, such as an edge in college admissions, scholarships, and even the opportunity to go pro.

The ad, from Arnold Worldwide, speaks to problems like overtraining for injuries, burnout, discouragement and demoralization. The grim press-conference setting puts the blame squarely on the adults who should be making sure sports really are fun and games for their kids.

With donated media from ESPN, the #DontRetireKid social media campaign, as well as Project Play’s website, offer parents resources to help navigate the confusing and world of youth sports. And such athletic greats as Kobe Bryant (basketball), Wayne Gretzky (ice hockey), Sue Bird (basketball), Sloane Stephens (tennis) and Julie Foudy (soccer) star in related videos, sharing their experiences in youth sports.

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