The National Federation of State High School Associations, led by CEO and PLAY Sports Coalition board member Dr. Karissa Niehoff, recently released its annual High School Athletics Participation Survey for the first time since 2018–19.
The outlook of this year’s NFHS survey is reflected in the mission of the Coalition to elevate the importance of youth development and ensure resources are unlocked beyond the pandemic’s lasting influence on the critical programs serving communities across the nation.
“It is great to see a growing interest in several emerging sports, as well as programs like Unified and Adapted programs,” Dr. Niehoff said in releasing the survey. “Our goal continues to be to involve as many students as possible in high school sports and other activity programs.”
Legislative developments earlier this year in Ohio symbolize the opportunity and intertwine with the NFHS survey.
PLAYS leadership and members from Ohio-based organizations such as America SCORES Cleveland and the Lindy Infante Foundation actively pushed for a portion of tax proceeds from legalized sports betting in Ohio — set to begin in 2023 — to be allocated for youth sports programs. That #Unite2PLAY demonstration led to the passing of legislation to direct those proceeds to a fund benefitting Ohio students in interscholastic athletics and extracurricular activities from grades K-12.
Early estimates believe this commitment from Ohio’s state legislators could provide up to $12 million to school-based and afterschool sports programs in just the first year alone.
As Stefani Infante (president of the Lindy Infante Foundation) stated in her June 2021 testimony before state legislators: “All kids — regardless of zip code or ability — deserve access to high-quality youth sports experiences. These programs lead to the development of healthy children and communities, which in turn can help address a range of well-established challenges, including obesity, crime and depression.”
These resources, among other grassroots efforts, will be key foundations to a future where future generations of Ohio’s students, particularly those in under-resourced communities, have fair access to the opportunities shown in the NFHS survey.