Posted on September 09, 2022
The Fort Worth Park and Recreation Department and its partners will launch a joint elementary after-school sports program this fall.
The main goal of the program is to remove the barriers that exist in the current youth sports ecosystem – cost, time, transportation and proximity – by bringing accessible sports programs to students where they are: in neighborhood schools.
Fort Worth partnered with FWISD, the Fort Worth Sports Commission, the Fort Worth After School Program and other youth sports providers to launch the program this fall. Participating schools and community centers are still being determined for the fall football season, but the ultimate goal is to have the program in all Fort Worth ISD elementary schools.
“Along with providing equitable services to all parts of the city, our mission is to ensure that all children have access to the positive benefits that come with participating in youth sports,” said Dave Lewis, Interim Director of Park & Recreation.
The city’s first-year funding for the expanded program is $387,058.
The benefits of youth sports
A study by the Aspen Institute shows that children who are active and play sports are 10% less likely to be obese, have 40% higher test scores, are 15% more likely to go to college and have lower levels of depression and higher self-esteem. In addition, sports provide children with the opportunity to learn life lessons such as teamwork, perseverance and discipline.
“Besides being a lot of fun, youth sports programs teach kids valuable lessons about leadership, teamwork and overcoming challenges. Fort Worth is committed to expanding youth sports opportunities for more kids by investing in infrastructure and expanding programs, and I’m excited to see the city team up with these partners to do just that, nurturing happier, healthier childhood in our city,” said Mayor Matty Parker.
The program will feature three sports – soccer, basketball and flag football – and will be offered in six-week increments. Students will practice after school with a volunteer coach and compete on weekends at local park facilities against other Fort Worth ISD teams or community centers.
If approved by the Fort Worth City Council this month, additional funds would be used to improve the program by adding staff, equipment, game officials and jerseys to accommodate more kids.
“Fort Worth After School, which is a collaborative effort between FWISD and the City of Fort Worth, is proud to partner with the Park & Recreation and Sports Commission to provide high-quality, affordable league options for all youth in Fort Worth. This is a phenomenal opportunity to grow and build sports and life skills for our youth,” said Miguel Garcia, FWISD Afterschool Program Director.
Youth participation in sports has declined since 2014, when more than 4,000 children played sports through Parks and Recreation Department programs. The COVID-19 pandemic has shut down the programs entirely. This new program aims to return to the number of participants from 2014 and beyond.
Youth sports complex under construction
In addition to the new youth sports program, the city is working on plans for a youth sports complex that will fill the need for a sports facility that can accommodate major regional and national tournaments while also being a place where local kids can play and be proud on.
“Fort Worth has an incredible opportunity to redefine sports programs and facilities throughout the city,” said Jason Sands, executive director of the Fort Worth Sports Commission. “It starts with more participation and equity at the recreation level, but it also includes investing in facilities so our kids have somewhere to play. With the World Cup coming to DFW in 2026, the time to act is now.”
While the city has plans to improve sports and facilities at all levels, the launch of this new youth sports model will ultimately contribute to healthier and happier children in Fort Worth.
photo: Flag football is one of three activities that will be part of an expanded youth sports program in Fort Worth.
Get articles like this in your inbox. Subscribe to City News.