June 19, 2019

Hundreds Join Community Conversations

It has been a busy spring for Project Play WNY! The working groups developed some exciting pilot programs that were launched to gauge the interest within the Western New York youth sports community. Here is a play-by-play of the action!

On Saturday, March 23, Project Play Western New York hosted the first 2019 Community Conversation at the KeyBank Center. The event brought together over 300 coaches and volunteers to engage in conversations about today’s youth sports.

Sabres announcer Brian Duff served as the Master of Ceremony for the day, and speakers included Lorenzo Alexander of the Buffalo Bills and ACES Foundation; Chris Price of Life Sports; Mike Masters and Casey Kacz of Cross Training Athletics; representatives of Playworks; and Dan Gould and Karl Erickson of Michigan State University Institute for Study of Youth Sport.

Fred Dupree, Niagara University basketball coach, led a panel of local coaches, asking the question “what do the great coaches do?” The discussion included Julie Murphy, head coach of Williamsville South softball and Williamsville Stampede field hockey; Mike MacDonald, head coach of Daemen College’s men’s basketball team; Peter Sorgi, president of East Aurora Arsenal Soccer Club; and Gail Tylec, coordinator of the Physical Education Studies, Teacher Education Program and interim Vice President of Academic Affairs at Niagara County Community College.

A second panel, led by Executive Director of Girls on the Run Buffalo, Katie Joyce, involved college athletes who took what they learned in sports and “went pro in something else.” Panelists included Anibal Soler, Melodie Baker, Mary Bradach and Landrum Beard.

Kevin Lester, Athletic Director at Williamsville South high school, led a discussion that included four Greater Buffalo Hall of Famers: Yevette Angel, Joe Mesi, Stacey Schroeder Watt and Bud Carpenter.

The last panel of the day was led by Daycia Clarke of the United Way’s Western New York Girls in Sport program, which was founded by Mary Wilson. Clarke led a discussion among four middle school-aged youth about what it is they love about sports.

To end the day, Annalesa Calvert, Executive Director or Buffalo’s Algonquin Sports for Kids, interviewed Chris Price who emphasized the importance that coaches’ roles play in kids’ lives.

Watch the event video here: https://youtu.be/lQzmsyYFM_0

Next up, Project Play WNY hosted the Free Play Challenge at the ADPRO Fieldhouse in Orchard Park on May 5. Over 500 people stopped to play.

The event, geared toward kids and families, featured a variety of backyard-style games, relay races, soccer, volleyball, lacrosse, nature games and a bounce house. In addition, a free play area allowed participants to play with hula hoops and Stomp Rockets, among other items, which were then raffled off to lucky winners, as well an Imagination Station, which went to the William C. Baird Boys and Girls Club.

After opening remarks from Mary Wilson, nationally acclaimed author Kevin Carroll took the stage, encouraging kids to get out and play. Other highlights included a dodgeball game between Bills and Sabres alumni and a mascot two square tournament between Billy Buffalo and Sabretooth.

The Free Play Challenge promoted one of Project Play Western New York’s goals of reintroducing free play. Research shows that children who spend more time in less structured activities are generally better equipped to set their own goals and take action on them. Those children also display higher levels of academic creativity as college students. Because of this, Project Play Western New York is focused on bringing back the idea of free play to area youth, and we hope this event inspired others to do the same!

Be sure to follow Project Play WNY on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram to stay informed of upcoming 2019 Community Conversations.