The Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation has been utilizing baseball and softball as a tool to promote positive change in the community since it began in 1995. One of its youth programs, Dodgers RBI (Rebuilding Baseball in Inner Cities) aims to increase access to education, literacy, health and wellness, and recreational resources in underserved communities.
In 2013, the Foundation commissioned a study on youth baseball/softball access and participation in Los Angeles and encountered numerous challenges including poor-quality fields, a lack of quality coaches, high equipment costs and limited resources.
In an effort to combat many of these barriers, particularly a lack of coaches in the community, the Dodgers Foundation has partnered with Up2Us Sports, a nationwide leader in engaging, training and supporting coaches to be placed in youth community programs.
“We believe it’s our responsibility to take care of the fans surrounding Dodgers Stadium and in the Los Angeles area the way they take care of our team,” said Nichol Whiteman, Dodgers Foundation executive director. “Like our president and CEO Stan Kasten says, our fans are our community, and certain fans don’t have everything they need to succeed.
“We hope every child in Los Angeles has the ability to thrive no matter what neighborhood or zip code they live in and that is really important for us.”
The three-year regional partnership and $1 million investment from the Dodgers Foundation will recruit and train 250 coaches as part of the program in an effort to support 20,000 local youth.
Up2Us coaches are equipped with 30 hours of youth development mentoring and trauma-informed strategies.
Unique to Up2Us Sports, founded in 2010, coaches will be equipped with more than 30 hours of youth development mentoring and trauma-informed strategies before being immersed in the community. Serving nearly 450,000 youth by placing more than 2,300 coaches in communities throughout the United States, Up2Us Sports also has regional partnerships with the Chicago White Sox, Miami Heat and Baltimore Ravens.
“To be associated with the Dodgers and their foundation is such a privilege for us because of what they stand for,” said Andy Schwich, Up2Us Sports Los Angeles city director. “They’re so much more than baseball and softball. That’s why we felt so comfortable aligning with them and developing this partnership. The marriage between us is one that reflects the same values, vision, goals and impact.
“To be able to align ourselves with the Dodgers Foundation really puts us on the map in LA.”
Up2Us Sports currently has 40 coaches on the ground at approximately 20 sites throughout Los Angeles. With the onboarding and training of new coaches through this regional partnership, that number will increase to roughly 75 coaches this year. The program currently serves between 4,000 to 5,000 youth per year, which will increase to more than 10,000 over the next year.
The Dodgers recently held an orientation event at Dodgers Stadium for 15 of their coach-mentors who will join their RBI program. Each spoke to the impact baseball, softball or sports had on their lives and how they hope to use the same learnings to influence the next generation.
“We are so excited because we aren’t just putting people out there into the community but people with stories about how sports have influenced them and who look like and reflect the kids we serve,” Whiteman said. “We’re really investing in people to be able to help our youth achieve all we know they can.”