January 20, 2021

Shout of Hope

We are still finding our way to the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as we do so, it is important to recognize the lives lost and changed in the last 10 months. It is also important to find ways to be hopeful for ourselves, our families and most importantly, our kids. At Project Play WNY, we see early signs that better days are ahead. More children are back in classrooms, the much-anticipated vaccines are being distributed, the ski slopes and sledding hills are busy, the Sabres are on the ice, and yes, the Buffalo Bills are still playing football.

At a time when communities may be divided in thought but united in weariness, Western New Yorkers are fortunate to rally around the Bills. Our devotion to the team often appears through calling out the Shout song at meeting places large and small. This weekend I heard the song breakout in an Ellicottville ski lift line and then later that day in an aisle at a Buffalo Wegmans. The song and our Bills have us feeling hopeful and inspired. The young and athletic Bills players show us the value of an active lifestyle and the great feeling that comes from a sense of team. After the Wildcard game, kids and families emerged on front lawns and in the streets, celebrating the big win with tossed footballs, waving Bills flags, and of course, singing the Shout song. The energy, enthusiasm and community that the Bills exude remind us all of the best things about sport and give us something we can all shout about. 

At Project Play WNY, we want all children to get a chance to personally learn and experience what these young Bills are showing Western New York. While we cannot guarantee our youth the skills and talent to compete at the highest level and on the largest stage, we can commit to providing, albeit on smaller scales, the life lessons of sport. We watch these players and listen to their post-game interviews as they identify common themes of teamwork, dedication, handling the joy of winning, learning the humility of losing, and perhaps most importantly, how to be coached.

Project Play WNY’s 2021 agenda will emphasize improving the sport experience for our youth.  We know that a quality youth sport experience can build happier kids, healthier families, and stronger communities. In 2021, Project Play WNY will introduce even more resources for sport organizations, coaches, officials and parents. During these critical times, we want to equip each of these groups with tools to provide youth with opportunities and experiences that lead them on a path to success. 

Our efforts start this week with the continuation of our Project Play WNY Planning for Recovery webinars.  The webinars tackle topics highlighted for us through emails, social media posts, and survey responses. Later this year, we hope to bring back our Community Conversations and introduce online tools to enhance the coach, parent and child experience. Our Project Play WNY Working Groups will be announcing additional resources for leagues and organizations to host conversations or pilot ideas focused on providing youth sport experiences that serve as lifelong lessons. We have outlined a year that we hope will keep Western New York shouting about positive sport experiences. To stay attuned to all we have planned for 2021, follow us on social media and sign up for our bi-monthly newsletters. Find this information and more at www.projectplaywny.org.

Stay safe and stay strong during these challenging times, and, of course, Go Bills!