The Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) announced the 2021 grant recipients of the Sports 4 Life program, a national initiative to increase sport participation and retention of African American and Hispanic girls, and now Native American girls as well. A total of $294,000 has been awarded to 42 organizations across 23 states, including Washington, D.C., helping to fuel and diversify sports opportunities expected to serve nearly 8,000 across 31 traditional and non-traditional sports.
Sports 4 Life was co-founded by WSF and espnW in 2014 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. The program seeks to close the gap by strengthening and expanding the opportunities for sports participation available to young girls of color. With the knowledge that Native American youth are disproportionately impacted by poverty, inadequate healthcare, along with a higher risk of obesity, WSF has expanded Sports 4 Life to serve Native American girls, including American Indian and Alaska Native communities. Additional funding provided by Morgan Stanley, The Walt Disney Company and the Katie & Perrie Fund is allowing Sports 4 Life to support 42 organizations this year, which will reach 7,898 girls — 87% of whom identify as Black or African American, Hispanic or Native American.
“The Women’s Sports Foundation believes that all girls – regardless of race, ethnicity, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, ability, zip code or family income – deserve equal access to the lifelong, transformative benefit of sports,” said Deborah Antoine, CEO of the Women’s Sports Foundation. “We are proud of the Sports 4 Life initiative, its enduring impact, and our expansive reach to include Native American girls. We are so grateful for our partnership legacy with espnW, and our shared imperative to positively impact the lives of girls across the country.”
Sports 4 Life supports programs that help girls in four foundational areas – leadership, confidence, self-esteem, and perseverance – fostering girls’ physical and emotional health and academic success. Later this month, WSF will be rolling out a new discussion guide focused on developing girls’ confidence and supplementing last year’s guide on leadership.
“At ESPN, we believe that we all have a very important role to play in creating a more inclusive and equitable society,” said Kevin Martinez, vice president of Corporate Citizenship at ESPN. “Sports has the ability to transform lives, and we are proud that with the Women’s Sports Foundation, our funding through Sports 4 Life is continuing to foster strong recruitment, engagement and retention of girls of color participating in sports.”
The Sports 4 Life initiative strengthens and expands sport participation opportunities for young girls of color through its grant making, leadership training and capacity-building efforts. Since its inception, the initiative has funded 170 organizations across 35 states, Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands, providing $1.7 Million in grants to 69,000 girls participating in 34 sports. Half of the girls reached by Sports 4 Life programming were not previously participating in sports with regularity, and nearly all girls were interested in continuing sports after participating in Sports 4 Life funded programming.