September 22, 2020

Youth Voice Corner: Charlie Meyer

Project Play WNY is excited to launch the Youth Voice Corner, in which we will share a youth perspective on the current state of sport and recreation in WNY.  Our first guest writer is East Aurora first year high school student Charlie Meyer.  We met Charlie after he reached out to us last spring offering to rally support for better access to youth sports for all WNY kids.  We have enjoyed getting to know Charlie these past few months. We know that it will take our entire community to increase access to youth sports, and it is great to have our region’s youth involved in that effort. The Youth Voice corner will be accepting articles from any youth (age 18 and under) living in the 8 counties of WNY.  For more details, please email us a

Hello, my name is Charlie Meyer. I go to East Aurora High School and just started my freshman year. Last year, in eighth grade, I was part of a program called the Honors Experience. This program focused on communication skills, teamwork skills, exploring your community, and leadership. The final project for this program was called the Passion Project. I realized after much thought that one of my main passions was playing sports.

Sports are a huge part of my life, so that is where I started my research. After narrowing it down, I realized that I was fortunate to have so much access to playing sports, as many communities do not. My plan for the project was to spread awareness about the benefits of sports and the lack of organized sports in underserved communities. While researching for my project, I came across Project Play WNY. Project Play helps all children live a healthy lifestyle. As part of the project, we had to talk to an expert on our subject and to learn the details and answers we would not just be able to find online. I had a conversation over Zoom with Ms. Niland and Ms. Contreras, and we discussed everything from the modernization of youth sports to the benefits that sports provide participants.

I learned so much about the reasons kids aren’t involved in sports, which helped me develop my final project. I originally envisioned an event and a fundraiser for part of my project, but because of the virus, I shaped my final project into a TED talk with a slideshow. A few weeks later, Jon Solomon of Aspen Institute Project Play interviewed me for a story on how kids are dealing with and staying connected with their teams during the time of the lockdown. Then, shortly after that, I was featured on a webinar run by the Aspen Institute with my coach, discussing life as a young athlete during quarantine and, once again, how we are staying connected with our team.

For me, staying connected involved attending daily trainings via Zoom with all of my teammates. Coaches would run us through a workout consisting of footwork and exercises. We also had weekly Zooms with our team coach just to check in with everybody and discuss what will happen next for our soccer team. I also described the daily schedule my dad had set up for me and the types of workouts I had been doing. This webinar was an excellent opportunity to provide the attendees with information for their own kids and teams.

My main take away from these experiences is that sports can provide people with a lot of opportunities, as can be seen in my case. But not all kids have access to sport. We need to work together, so all kids get the chance to participate in youth sports. I hope you get involved by organizing an equipment drive, having a sports activity night, or spreading awareness about the youth sports crisis. Even just cherishing your opportunity to play whenever you can and get as involved in sports as you can. Always realize how many awesome opportunities you have and take advantage of them, then do something so that other kids can join in on the fun. 


Charlie Meyer