The Fort Worth Park & Recreation Department and its partners will launch a collaborative elementary after-school sports program this fall.
The program’s main goal is to break down barriers that exist in the current youth sports ecosystem – cost, time, transportation and proximity – by bringing affordable sports programming to students where they are: at neighborhood schools.
Fort Worth is partnering with FWISD, Fort Worth Sports Commission, Fort Worth After School Program and other youth sports providers to launch the program this fall. Participating schools and community centers are still being determined for the fall soccer season, but the end goal is to have a program in all Fort Worth ISD elementary schools.
“Along with providing equitable services to all parts of the city, our mission is to make sure all kids have access to the positive benefits that come with participation in youth sports,” said Dave Lewis, interim director of Park & Recreation.
The City’s first-year funding for the expanded program is set at is $387,058.
The benefits of youth sports
A study by the Aspen Institute shows that children who are active and play sports are 10% less likely to be obese, have 40% higher test scores, are 15% more likely to go to college and have lower levels of depression and higher self-esteem. In addition, sports provide children an opportunity to learn life lessons like teamwork, perseverance and discipline.
“On top of being a lot of fun, youth sports programs teach kids valuable lessons in leadership, teamwork and overcoming challenges. Fort Worth is committed to extending youth sports opportunities to more kids by investing in infrastructure and expanding programs, and I’m excited to see the City come together with these partners to do just that, fueling happier and healthier childhoods in our city,” said Mayor Mattie Parker.
The program will feature three sports – soccer, basketball and flag football – and be offered in six-week increments. Students will have practices after school with a volunteer coach and compete on weekends at local park facilities against other Fort Worth ISD or community center teams.
If approved by the Fort Worth City Council this month, additional funds would be used to enhance the program by adding staff, equipment, game officials and jerseys to accommodate more kids.
“Fort Worth After School, which is a collaborative effort of FWISD and the City of Fort Worth, is proud to partner with Park & Recreation and the Sports Commission to deliver high-quality, affordable league options for all youth in Fort Worth. This is a phenomenal opportunity to grow and build sports and life skills for our youth,” said Miguel Garcia, director of the FWISD After-School Program.
Youth Sports participation has been on the decline since 2014, when more than 4,000 kids played sports through Park & Recreation Department programs. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down the programs entirely. This new program has a goal of getting back to 2014 participation numbers and beyond.
Youth sports complex in the works
In addition to the new youth sports program, the City has been working on plans for a youth sports complex that would fill the need for a sports facility to accommodate large regional and national tournaments while also being a place local kids could play at and be proud of.
“Fort Worth has an incredible opportunity to redefine sports programs and facilities throughout the city,” said Jason Sands, executive director of the Fort Worth Sports Commission. “It starts with more involvement and equity at the recreation level, but also includes investing in facilities so our kids have a place to play. With the World Cup coming to DFW in 2026, the time to act is now.”
While the City has plans to enhance sports and facilities at all levels, the launch of this new youth sports model will ultimately contribute to healthier and happier children throughout Fort Worth.