2020 Sports 4 Life Grant Recipients Awarded by Women’s Sports Foundation and espnW

Now more than ever, the country’s dual crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic and racial injustice spotlight the need for community-based programs to survive and thrive.

Published on July 13th, 2020

New York, NY (July 13, 2020) The Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) and espnW announced the 2020 grant recipients of the Sports 4 Life program, a national initiative to increase participation and retention of African-American and Hispanic girls in youth sports. A total of $175,000 has been awarded to 25 organizations in 14 states including Washington D.C., representing 23 different sports. These grants to help fuel and diversify sports opportunities are expected to serve more than 7,700 middle and high school girls.

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. This year, that gap has been illuminated further by the dual crisis gripping the country – the COVID-19 pandemic, and the long-standing impact of racial injustice.

Recognizing that these essential grassroots programs are now facing unprecedented challenges, WSF and espnW approached the award process with acute responsiveness for the programs’ needs, and determination to help these organizations survive and thrive. This year’s grants have been increased from $5,000 to $7,000 to provide additional support, and recipients have full flexibility to use the grants for any area of need, whether it be to develop online programming, retain staff or offset operating expenses.

“This year is certainly unlike any other, yet the very core of the Sports 4 Life initiative remains steadfast —to use the power of sport to support, encourage and inspire girls of color to unlock their full potential,” said WSF CEO Deborah Antoine. “These incredibly vital community programs are finding creative ways to keep their girls engaged, from online camps to virtual one-on-one coaching, to delivering supplies and equipment to girls’ homes. All are working hard to turn this difficult time into an opportunity for growth. WSF is proud of this initiative and its continued relevance and impact, and are grateful for our partnership with espnW.”

WSF has provided support to all its community partners throughout the pandemic by creating a 1-800 community helpline, participating in one-to-one outreach with program leaders, and developing recommendations for a safe return to play, among many other initiatives featured in its COVID-19 Action Plan. The foundation also continues to add valuable tools specific to the Sports 4 Life program, further reinforcing its core foundational pillars: leadership, confidence, self-esteem and perseverance. A new discussion guide focused on developing girls’ leadership skills will be rolled out to community partners later this month. The guide will be followed by a virtual, professional development webinar series for coaches later this summer that will cover topics including accessibility, college readiness and ensuring safe play.

“The espnW team is so proud of the program and the tens of thousands of young girls it’s reached over the past six years,” said Rachel Epstein, ESPN senior director, Emerging Properties & Brands. “We know the power of sports in changing lives, building self-esteem, developing leadership skills and championing the importance of teamwork. With the Women’s Sports Foundation, we continue to make necessary steps and affect much-needed change in addressing the inequities that exist for girls of color in sports today.” 

“We are thrilled to continue espnW’s collaboration with the Women’s Sports Foundation on the Sports 4 Life program,” said Alison Overholt, ESPN senior vice president, Multiplatform Storytelling and Journalism. “In the six years since Sports 4 Life’s inception, the program has made an indelible impact on young girls of color in sports. ESPN’s dedication to women and girls through our storytelling has never been stronger, and our passion for improving lives through sports starts with our content and our commitment to programs like Sports 4 Life.”

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. The initiative has reached 163 community organizations in 32 states (plus Washington D.C. and U.S. Virgin Islands), with over $1.9 million in grants reaching more than 67,000 girls in over 50 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. With WSF and espnW’s support, the 2020 community partners have been particularly successful in promoting opportunities for girls of color in new, adaptive ways.

Meet our 2020 grant recipients and learn more about them by clicking here: https://www.womenssportsfoundation.org/wsf_programs/sports-4-life-community/ 

About the 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 espnW

espnW is a global multiplatform brand dedicated to engaging and inspiring women through sports. espnW.com, the brand’s content home, offers total access to female athletes and the sports they play, takes fans inside the biggest events, and captures the biggest trends in sports life/style. espnW also provides a unique point of view on the sports stories that matter most to women and highlights the crossroads of sports and culture. Founded in July 2010, espnW’s content and voices live across digital, television, radio, films, events, educational platforms and social media. 

Media Contacts:

Patty Bifulco
Women’s Sports Foundation

Amanda Brooks