Oklahoma City – Building upon the high-quality, top-rated YMCA youth sports programming, the Inasmuch Foundation and McLaughlin Family Foundation are joining with the YMCA to provide a free sports league for third and fourth-grade students in Oklahoma City.
The YMCA Oklahoma City Elementary School Sports League will begin this spring with soccer for both boys and girls at 12 elementary schools. The league is designed to grow each season to include additional OKC elementary school students, including those learning virtually, by the fall 2021 season. Volunteer coaches, recruited and trained through the Y, will help guide players through on the field sports skills, as well as help build character, instill sportsmanship, and encourage teamwork.
“Unfortunately, many children, particularly in the target population for this program, are unable to participate in team sports opportunities due to socio-economic factors. In the 2018-2019 academic year, 83% of urban OKC students were classified as economically disadvantaged,” Chris Berry, District Executive Director Mitch Park YMCA states. “Students from lower socio-economic families are less likely to have access and opportunities to extra-curricular programming. By offering this league to children in some of the most underserved areas of Oklahoma City, we are providing the opportunity for children to experience something they would otherwise not have access to, instilling a sense of hope for their present situation and their future.”
“On the field, kids learn to be good team players, to be respectful of their teammates and coaches, and to stay committed to excellence,” Kelly Kay, president & CEO, YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City states. “We believe the power of these learnings translates seamlessly to their academic achievement and their behavior off the field. Children who participate in team sports consistently perform better in school and have fewer behavioral issues. These children also have increased feelings of self-worth and have overall better mental health than children who do not participate in structured, team-based activities.”
“OKCPS is excited to partner with YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City, and greatly appreciates the support of Inasmuch Foundation and McLaughlin Family Foundation to establish this critical next step in youth sports for OKCPS students,” states Dr. Sean McDaniel, superintendent of Oklahoma City Public Schools. “To provide a quality team sports experience for third and fourth-grade boys and girls will help on many levels. Not only do they get the benefit of exercise and the social-emotional learning that comes with the experience, but they also get the support of coaches, volunteers, and an entire community cheering them on.”
Funding for the league is provided by the Inasmuch Foundation and the McLaughlin Family Foundation, with Cleats for Kids providing footwear to all participants and Oklahoma City Parks and Recreation providing fields for the league. These partnerships allow for students to participate free of charge.
On behalf of the McLaughlin Family Foundation, Tim McLaughlin added, “With the addition of this YMCA OKC elementary league, Oklahoma City children now have a clear pathway to team sports and, more importantly, graduation! Over the past several years, data has supported the belief ‘if they play, they stay and if they stay, they graduate.’ The earlier we can engage kids in quality after-school sports programs, the better. With this new Y league serving OKC grades 3-4, OKC Police Athletic League serving OKC grades 5-6, and local high school athletics serving students grades 7-12, the path is set. We are so grateful to these partner organizations for creating free participation opportunities for OKC students. When you add Cleats for Kids to the lineup, providing individual shoes and gear for the kids, the Wes Welker Foundation for providing field equipment for all the athletic fields constructed by OKCPS and Fields & Futures, and hundreds of volunteer coaches across the city, we now have a fully formed team to help more students fulfill their purpose and passion. It’s game on!”
“Inasmuch Foundation is proud to partner with McLaughlin Family Foundation and the YMCA to develop and grow organized sports leagues for elementary school-age students throughout Oklahoma City but targeted initially in NE OKC,” stated Bob Ross, Inasmuch Foundation Chairman and CEO. “Sports teach responsibility, cooperation, and teamwork which are all vital to workforce readiness later in life.”
About the YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City
The Y is one of the nation’s leading non-profit organizations strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility. Across the Oklahoma City metro area, 14 Ys engage more than 120,000 men, women, and children – regardless of age, income, or background – to nurture the potential of children and teens, improve the nation’s health and well-being, and provide opportunities to give back and support neighbors. Anchored in more than 10,000 communities across the country, the Y has the long-standing relationships and physical presence not just to promise, but to deliver, lasting personal and social change.