From skiing to snowshoeing, mountain biking to trail running, and beyond, Park City is home to a plethora of outdoor sports. It's no wonder so many kids here grow up to become world-class athletes. But before they take on the Olympics, many of Park City's youngsters get their first tracks with the Youth Sports Alliance. Entrusted with engaging children in the winter sports scene as a part of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games legacy, the organization has flourished over the years. Now, in addition to supporting seven competitive winter sports teams, YSA reaches more local children than ever through after-school programming; and its $2 million Stein Eriksen Endowment provides need-based scholarships to young athletes.
It doesn't take a genius to figure out why kids playing sports is a good thing. In addition to the obvious health benefits of staying active, participating in sports can boost self-esteem, cultivate leadership, teach teamwork, provide stress relief, and much more. "Experiencing sports helps kids understand how to set, achieve, and adjust goals. They learn how to win, how to lose, and how to get up after you fall," says Emily Fisher, Executive Director of YSA. "They can apply those skills for the rest of their lives." To help kids develop these skills, YSA tries to connect early through their after-school program, Get Out & Play. Designed specifically for elementary school ages, Get Out & Play offers a safe and fun introduction to a variety of sports, from skiing and snowboarding to bouldering and mountain biking, depending on the season. For middle schoolers, YSA offers the ACTiV8 program, which in addition to sporting options, also includes a number of other classes (thanks to the input of teens/tweens) focusing on subject like acting, photography, and cooking.
Despite the many rewards of playing sports and the vast number of recreational opportunities around town, getting kids into the sports scene can be challenging for many parents. For winter sports, in particular, the financial hurdles are significant. At the core of YSA's work is the need to level the playing field for local children through need-based scholarships, which are applicable to all of their programming and sports teams. "Reaching lower income kids helps them feel like they are a member of the community. For a lot of them this is their only opportunity [to participate in sports], especially for the ones whose families work in the service industry," says Fisher. "When they get on the bus, they're all the same, sharing stories of major wipeouts. I love being part of providing the experience of sport to all members of the community. Seeing the joy in the kids' faces when they find something they love, whether it's stepping out on the ice rink or going down First Time for the first time, is priceless."
Whether a kid is strapping into skis for day one or jetting off to PyeongChang to compete in the Olympics, YSA is committed to continuing Park City's strong winter sports legacy, but they can't do it alone. You can support YSA and a slew of other local non-profits by donating during Live PC, Give PC on November 9.