June 22, 2021

Go, Stick, Pull … the Next Leg Begins

As the days of the Olympics fast approach, fans worldwide anticipate the fierce competition of amazing athletes that have worked their entire lives for this moment. Track & field, a fundamental portion of the games, is a personal favorite, with a special place in my heart for the relay. The unique symmetry of individual and team effort makes for an exciting and sometimes gut-wrenching experience. 

The irony that Project Play WNY is executing a quick handoff during the belated Olympic summer is not lost on our team. Bridget Niland has set an impeccable pace, creating the Project Play WNY that is well on its way to changing the narrative of youth sports for our region. A testament to her leadership is evident in the smooth transition to this next phase of our work and I am excited to carry the baton through the next leg.

I am thrilled to lead the Project Play WNY team as Director of Project Play WNY/Youth Sports Initiatives (PPWNY/YSI) at the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo. Youth sports have always played a massive role in my life, and I look forward to developing that same appreciation in other families in Western New York.

Joining the track and field team at City Honors School had a profound impact on the trajectory of my life. In my first varsity track practice, my coach approached me and told me I had “the legs of a hurdler,” and training for the 100 and 400-meter hurdles would begin the following week. This sudden edict left me confused and fearful of what the season would bring, but fortunately, it proved to be a defining moment in my adolescent development. The challenge of hurdling forced me to be open to daily criticism while being patient with the slow progress of teaching my body these foreign movements. My desire to win pushed me out of my comfort zone to actively seek mentorship from any coach I could find on the track. If I had not experienced these challenges all those years ago, I wouldn’t be where I am today. 

With these considerations in mind, leading the passionate team of Project Play WNY is an honor since I have the opportunity of developing a positive youth sports landscape focusing on the next generation’s experience.

In my most recent time as WNY Girls in Sports (WNYGIS) Education Program Manager at United Way of Buffalo & Erie County, I worked to provide girls with quality experiences that reinforced their love of traditional sports while providing opportunities to engage in non-traditional sports offerings. In all grant-related efforts, WNYGIS worked in parallel or collaboratively with PPWNY/YSI to impact the youth sports landscape for girls ages 9-12. My experiences working with PPWNY/YSI have been filled with such joy that I immediately jumped at the opportunity to join this transformational team. Through the collaborative efforts of the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation and Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, the relationships with community/professional sports organizations, and the research backing of the Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society Program, PPWNY/YSI is uniquely positioned to change the narrative and impact of youth sports throughout Western New York. 

Youth sports are critically crucial to childhood and adolescent development. The benefits include developing healthy habits, physical literacy, teamwork, and problem-solving skills while boosting self-esteem. As a resident of Buffalo and a product of and a parent in the Buffalo Public School system, I have been and continue to be dedicated to increasing the capacity of local organizations to provide meaningful sports opportunities.

I look forward to working toward Project Play WNY’s mission of a community in which all children have the opportunity to be active through sports and one in which every child—regardless of location, income, or ability—has access to fun and fulfilling physical activities that build confidence and set them on a path for lifelong success.