Task force wants to give every Philly middle schooler a chance at sports

The intent is to combat the city's low rate of youth athletics participation.

Pat Loeb
June 27, 2018 - 5:00 am

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The Philadelphia Youth Sports Collaborative plans to launch an ambitious campaign Wednesday to give every middle schooler in the city the chance to play an organized sport. 

And in the process, the organization hopes to raise $1 million for the effort over the next five years.

The program, called Game On Philly, intends to get all 240,000 fourth- through eighth-graders in the city into a sports-based youth development program, which means using every public and private facility available and recruiting and training adults to volunteer as coaches. 

Whether it be a traditional sport like soccer or baseball, or something less conventional such as squash or ultimate frisbee, the task force just wants the kids to get active.

It hopes to counter the pay-to-play trend, which often leaves low-income youth on the sidelines. Philadelphia, a high-poverty city, currently has relatively low rates of youth sports participation.

The task force found that only one in five city youth get the recommended 60 minutes a day of physical activity, and one in five get no physical activity at all, a contributing factor to high rates of obesity. 

A task force report, due out Wednesday, recommends targeting middle schoolers because that is the age when lifelong habits are being developed. 

It's also when school truancy rates begin to rise. The task force said involvement in sports promotes school attendance and good grades, as well as better health and less involvement in risky behavior.