Youth Sports

Project Play Western New York

Project Play Western New York envisions a community in which all children have the opportunity to be active through sports regardless of zip code.

Every child—regardless of location, income or ability—should have access to fun and fulfilling physical activities that build confidence and set them on a path for lifelong success. A quality youth sports experience can build happier children, healthier families and stronger communities. Learn more at

About The Study

State of Play: Western New York is a comprehensive study about youth sports in the eight counties of Western New York. It was commissioned by the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation in partnership with the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo  and Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society Program. The report details insights, expertise and feedback of a local task force of youth sports leaders and practitioners after an eight-month research process.

For more information about the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation and its commitment to youth sports, click here.

The Plays

More than 1,000 local adults and youth informed the report through interviews, roundtable discussions, focus groups and surveys. The Aspen Institute analyzed the region through its existing framework of eight strategies, or “plays,” designed to increase sport participation with urban, suburban and rural youth.

8 Plays

  • Ask Kids What They Want
  • Reintroduce Free Play
  • Encourage Sports Sampling
  • Revitalize In-Town Leagues
  • Think Small
  • Design for Development
  • Train All Coaches
  • Emphasize Prevention

The Findings

State of Play: Western New York resulted in more than 40 findings about the status of youth sports in the region.

Download Complete Report

Highlights include:

  • Not Enough Kids Active at a Healthy Level
    While 84 percent of parents believe it’s important to have their children regularly involved in sports, only 16 percent of youth across Western New York are physically active one hour a day, the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • It’s About More than Sports
    A Johns Hopkins University analysis projects that if stakeholders in the region can get and keep just 25 percent of youth active daily, 7,488 fewer youth would be overweight and obese, saving the region more than $262 million in direct medical costs and workplace productivity losses.
  • Where Have the Neighborhood Games Gone?
    The sports experience has changed dramatically over the last generation or so, with children participating in fewer sports and activities near their homes. Casual/pick-up play has become far less common, with more youth primarily playing in organized team settings.
  • Many bright spots, but we can do better
    The Western New York region deserves a C+ in getting kids active through sports, according to an online survey of youth sport providers and other stakeholders. The grade aligns with research by the Aspen Institute, which found many innovative organizations and grassroots champions dedicated to youth, but also gaps in program access, especially in low-income and rural areas.

The Recommendations

  • Invest in more and better parks
  • Build indoor complex in Buffalo
  • Engage more racially diverse leaders
  • Turn college athletes into youth coaches
  • Educate and empower parents

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For more information about Project Play WNY, please contact Aaron Hord at

For more information about the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation and its commitment to youth sports, click here.