November 19, 2020

Giving Thanks and Not Giving Up

The year that has felt more like a decade is coming to an end. A year that no one will forget. A year marked with losses unimagined and devastating. For youth sports, a positive test on an NBA team moved quickly into a canceled spring, a modified summer, and first of its kind fall. Like many, Project Play WNY started the year with plans, goals, and resolutions.  And, like many, this year has taught us to adapt plans, to re-evaluate goals, and to value the simple things we once took as commonplace. 

We are grateful for the clarity and cohesion that challenges often bring to a family, an organization, and in our case, an initiative. We end the year not quite where we had planned, but in some ways much closer to changing the narrative around the value and purpose youth sport in WNY. 

For families, this year has brought the gift of time. Time to talk at a dinner table and time to spend a Sunday not at a competition, but rather on a hiking trail, at a skatepark, or rediscovering backyard play. Families discovered time for dancing together through TikToks or making up sports games to curb the boredom. This year has also marked a loss of time and loss of seasons. The loss of those seasons was painful for reasons that go far beyond championships and trophies. Canceled seasons, fewer programs, and distance learning have left kids home and left parents looking at sport through a different lens. This new lens is wider with a greater appreciation for what sports bring to children’s lives in terms of emotional, not just athletic development. The new lens is also more balanced and leaves more space for mixing time for sport training with time for play.

As we turn the page to 2021, Project Play WNY will continue to encourage families to view sport and play through the broad lens of 2020. Recognizing that there will not be a quick move back to normal, we are launching three more initiatives aimed at getting and keeping kids active and engaged. This week we are pleased to announce the launch of the Project Play WNY Youth Sports Forum. We hope the Facebook Forum will provide communication space for Western New Yorkers to share ideas on engaging kids in youth sports and play.  We are also launching a “Call for Partners” to inspire youth sport or youth-serving organizations to offer COVID-19 safe sport and play programming.  We seek partners who will operate winter free play days where families can stop the spread by getting outside to play instead. The Call for Partners also supports small group youth programming around low-risk sports. A final initiative for early 2021 is a webinar series focused on helping kids, families, and youth sports organizations continue to navigate these uncertain times. 

We recognize that the landscape changes daily, but Project Play WNY is not giving up. We remain committed to bringing the region together to keep kids active and engaged.  Thank you for joining us. We always love to hear from you, email us at