INSPIRED IMPACT is an ongoing blog series that gives voice to social entrepreneurs and leaders of mission-driven organizations who are making an impact in their communities and industries.

 



 

Melissa Tatro HarperMelissa Harper is the Co-Founder & CEO of Good Sports. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin and YouTube and learn more at goodsports.org.

 

WHAT DO YOU DO?
Good Sports provides new equipment, footwear, and apparel to kids in need to ensure all kids have access to the lifelong benefits of sports and physical activity.

 

WHY DO YOU DO IT?
Cost is one of the largest barriers to sports participation among disadvantaged youth. With the cost of participation rising, coupled with increased program fees, children from high poverty backgrounds are increasingly left on the sidelines. By donating new sports equipment, footwear, and apparel to programs and schools serving children in need, Good Sports is directly addressing the cost barrier of participation.

Why does this matter? Because kids who play do better. Research shows that kids who participate in sports and physical activity outperform their peers academically, are more socially connected, and engage in less risky behavior, not to mention the physical benefits of exercise. At Good Sports, we believe all kids should have access to the power of sports in building confidence, making friends, and stimulating the brain. We think access to play is a right and not a privilege.

 

WHAT IMPACT ARE YOU MAKING?
At Good Sports, we believe that by removing barriers to participation, we are saving sports for the next generation. Every child that picks up a bat, kicks a ball, or takes a shot is developing in ways that will benefit them throughout their life. The benefits of sport will show up in school, in their relationships with others, and even in their career someday.

We are trying to make sure all kids gain the benefits of sport by removing the cost barriers. So far, we’ve provided more than $26 million in equipment to five million kids across the country. But we are not done yet. There are still millions of kids on the sidelines and we will not rest until every child has access to play.

 

WHAT (OR WHO) INSPIRES YOU TO MAKE THIS IMPACT?
I have played sports my entire life from the moment my dad put a baseball hat on my head when I was four-years-old. I tried everything — basketball, volleyball, track, field hockey, even bowling. I was good at some sports and terrible at others, but no matter my ability, I have never met a sport I didn’t like. Throughout school, college, and now as a parent, I find joy, friendship, and strength in the sports I play and coach. At some of the hardest times in my life, I would turn to a coach for help, or take to the road to outrun my pain, or find the friend I needed on the field. I don’t know how I could have overcome some of the challenges I’ve faced without sports and I can’t live with the idea that millions of kids don’t have a choice.

 

WHAT’S YOUR BIG DREAM FOR THE ORGANIZATION AND THE IMPACT YOU WANT TO MAKE?
The end goal for Good Sports is that no child is ever left on the sideline because they can’t afford to play. If all goes well, we will someday live in a world where every child has access to play every single day. Physical activity and movement will be a priority and offered daily in school, after school, and at home. Employers and communities will prioritize the health and wellness of people and provide access to sport and physical activity the same way we provide access to food and water. Our bodies and minds need to move to be heathy and happy. Today, we are trying to break down the barriers for kids but someday we hope the obstacles will be removed for all of us.

 

WHAT RESOURCES DO YOU NEED TO MAKE THOSE DREAMS COME TRUE?
Good Sports’ ability to remove the cost barriers to sports is limited by the resources we have available — namely equipment. Each and every year, we get far more requests for equipment than we have available. As such, we have created a tool that enables donors to help us fill that gap: Equip-A-Kid! This hands-on experience allows a donor to select equipment from a range of their favorite sports, and Good Sports will donate it to kids in need across the country. Start giving: goodsports.org/equipakid/

 

WHAT IS (OR HAS BEEN) YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE?
Building and growing an organization is, by its very nature, a tremendous challenge. At various points over the last 15 years, I have questioned the decisions we made, the path we took, and the opportunities we declined. Sometimes we’ve been right and other times made big mistakes. But sports taught me long ago that in order to win the game, you have to take risks and dare to do things differently. So, each and every year, we evaluate what we are doing at Good Sports and we fix what’s broken, scale what works, and develop something new to help accomplish more. While we are proud of the success we have achieved, we also recognize that no matter the score after the first half, the game is won or lost in the time that’s left to play.

 

WHAT WORDS OF ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHER LEADERS LOOKING TO MAKE AN IMPACT?
Over the years, Good Sports has been asked to do a lot of things. For any problem that exists in youth sports and fitness, someone has suggested that we get involved in solving it and even offered us resources to do it. But the reality is we can’t be the solution for everything. And if we try, we won’t truly be great at anything. So, my advice for other leaders is to decide what impact you are trying to have and stay true to your mission. By focusing on doing what you do really well, you can build partnerships that have a broader impact. If you try to do everything on your own, your mission will become cloudy, your resources stretched, and your impact diluted. Don’t try to be good at everything, just be great at one thing.

 

HOW CAN OTHERS SUPPORT YOU OR YOUR CAUSE?
Anyone with an interest in giving a kid a chance to play can help us by making a donation to our Equip-a-Kid program. You’re not just buying a bat, ball, or uniform, but you are equipping kids for life. And that is truly a gift because kids who play do better.

 


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