Dick’s Sporting Goods Pledges to Provide Sports to 1 Million Children By 2024

Jon Gruden never played in the NFL. In fact, he didn’t play much college football either. The current Oakland Raiders head coach served as a backup quarterback at the University of Dayton during his college days.

While he never went professional as an athlete, the lessons learned from football and sports were invaluable not only as he rose to prominence in the coaching ranks—including guiding the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to victory in Super Bowl XXXVII—but also during his days as an analyst for ESPN on Monday Night Football.

“I wasn’t an NBA player or an NFL player, I wasn’t even a good player,” Gruden said. “I didn’t get a scholarship. But I learned teamwork, I learned sportsmanship, I learned mental toughness. I got physically tougher because I got beat up on the field a lot. I learned a lot about accountability.

“I didn’t learn those things in economics or in algebra. Being on a team is a really important part of growing up.”

The importance of sports and the values and lessons learned from them are why DICK’S Sporting Goods and the DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation are doing their part to make sports accessible to children around the United States.

DICK’S pledged on July 18 to provide access to sports to 1 million youth athletes by 2024. The company will also match up to $1 million in donations made by customers to the foundation at DICK’S store checkouts or online at SportsMatter.org from July 14 through September 13, 2019.

“Sports are huge in learning life lessons and gaining confidence, especially for young girls,” said Alex Morgan, a two-time World Cup winner and Olympic gold medalist with the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team. “Sports give so much that you can’t get elsewhere in school or social settings. DICK’S Sporting Goods is doing an amazing job by giving 1 million kids an opportunity to play sports who otherwise wouldn’t have had that.”

In 2014, the DICK’S Sporting Goods Foundation announced a $25 million multi-year commitment to address the growing issue of underfunding of youth athletic programs across the United States. So far this year, the foundation has provided more than $20 million in grants and scholarships to support deserving schools and organizations, including $1 million to help build a new gym at LeBron James’ I Promise School in Akron, Ohio.

DICK’S commitment to supporting youth athletics comes at a pivotal time. According to a pair of studies conducted by the RAND Corporation and Women’s Sports Foundation, 63% of school sports budgets are stagnant or decreasing, while 24% of high schools don’t offer sports.

Nearly 60% of community-based sports fees are rising as many families of middle school and high school students (42%) interested in sports cite cost as the main reason for a lack of participation.

“At the end of the day everyone wants to have something they can be a part of,” Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “This is what I’ve loved to do since I was 6 years old and I want to give this same gift to the young people who want it too. Sports build so many wonderful attributes and qualities you can take with you throughout the course of your life that will help you in any profession. That’s why I love it so much. It brings out the best in you.”

To help address the issues in youth sports, the DICK’S Foundation created a Sports Matter advisory board consisting of influential sports figures including LPGA champion Annika Sorenstam, beach volleyball gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings, skiing gold medalist Lindsey Vonn, former NBA player and current ABC/ESPN analyst Jalen Rose, Gruden and Fitzgerald.

“I think (DICK’S chairman and CEO) Ed Stack is the most important person in sports,” Gruden said. “He’s not a commissioner of a league, he’s a commissioner of all sports, for both boys and girls. Generosity and vision’s one thing but to go out and really do it for five years then recommit himself again is well worth the time being here. I can’t imagine a world without sports and I’m going to do everything I can do to be an assistant.”

NOTE: First appeared on Forbes SportsMoney

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