Sports are often thought of as an essential part of childhood and yet, throughout the United States and the world, so many young people are not able to participate because the barriers are simply too high. Softball and baseball is particularly challenging, as equipment is very expensive and can be difficult to access, the volume of gear required to play is prohibitive, and free or affordable programming is very limited. In addition, not all young people experience sports programs as an inclusive or welcoming space for them, and other socioeconomic hardships mean that just having access to equipment alone may not be enough to get and keep kids playing.
However, when sports are facilitated in a safe and inclusive way with a focus on participants’ wellbeing, the positive impact on young people–particularly vulnerable young people–is well known and demonstrated in research. Multiple studies show that sports programs can promote physical as well as mental and emotional health, build confidence, improve teamwork and social skills, increase school and community participation, foster healing from trauma, engage marginalized young people, and enhance child protection. They can also be critically important drivers of gender equality for girls and young women and expand young people’s access to and participation in relevant youth services. The broad appeal and popularity of sports can also help include the most marginalized or otherwise hard to reach young people.
We believe that all young people deserve to play the sports that they love in a fun, inclusive, and equitable way--and experience their many benefits--and founded Change Up Sports to help make this possible. We also believe that sports are an important platform for engaging young people and an invaluable tool for providing holistic youth development opportunities. In addition to our focus on increasing access for youth, we also work with adults so that they can act as trainers and coaches and provide support and encouragement to young people in and out of our programs--as positive adult involvement is crucial to the success of youth sports programming--and so that they can experience the benefits of sports themselves.
As the charitable arm of PALS, our mission is to work with partners and communities around the world to expand access to softball and baseball for young people and adults, and our programs emphasize inclusion and fun while promoting gender equity, youth development, and social justice. We focus on long-term partnerships that engage and support individuals often marginalized in sports and our current initiatives are in Philadelphia, Belize, and Sierra Leone.
Our vision is a world where sports are always inclusive, accessible, and equitable for everyone, and where young people and adults can play the sports they love without barriers and with the holistic support, encouragement, and resources that they need on and off the field.