Alex Morgan, Larry Fitzgerald and Jalen Rose join forces to fight for kids' access to sports
Youth sports across the nation are being threatened.
School budgets, family income and gender inequality are all putting American kids' ability to participate in after-school sports at risk.
Currently, 24% of U.S. high schools don't offer sports programs. Fees to play community sports are rising, and nearly two-thirds of school sports budgets are stagnant or decreasing, leaving families at a loss for how to get their children involved.
DICK'S Sporting Goods believes every kid deserves a chance to play and is stepping up to the plate to help turn those dreams into reality.
The company will be matching up to $1 million in donations made to the DICK'S Foundation at store checkouts from now until September 13, 2019, with the goal of providing access to sports for one million youth athletes over the next five years.
DICK'S will also be partnering with the Women's Sports Foundation to expand research on the participation and retention of young girls in sports. As it stands now, 56% of teenage girls do not participate in any sport, compared to 48% of boys.
USWNT star and World Cup champion Alex Morgan, Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald and NBA star turned ESPN analyst Jalen Rose are among the famous faces supporting the cause. Former Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn also joins Fitzgerald and Rose on the DICK'S Sporting Goods Sports Matter Advisory Board.
For many of these professional athletes, the opportunity to play multiple sports was life-changing. Fitzgerald, who played baseball, basketball and ran track in addition to football as a child, said participating in more than one sport made him "more versatile."
"I played four sports and I loved it," the 11-time Pro-Bowler told AOL.com. "That made me a much more well-rounded athlete. It kept me healthier, too, because I was using different muscle groups, and I was around different kids and different coaches."
Rose, who made a name for himself as part of the University of Michigan Wolverines' "Fab Five" before heading to the NBA, agreed.
"Whatever season it was, that's the sport we played," he said of his childhood in Detroit.
Rose stopped playing baseball after getting hit by a few too many hardballs at the hands of "neighborhood kids who thought they were Bob Gibson," and ended his football career when he realized he was simply too tall and too skinny for the physicality of the game. Once Rose found his knack for basketball, he also began running cross-country, which was a requirement for hoops players at his high school.
In addition to staying healthier and possibly finding a path to the pros like Rose, Fitzgerald and Morgan, kids who participate in sports have also been found to have higher self-esteem, are more likely to get better grades and are less likely than non-athletes to suffer from depression.
So far in 2019 alone, DICK'S has provided over $20 million to deserving schools, including LeBron James's I PROMISE School in Akron, Ohio.
Those who wish to support DICK'S and the DICK'S Sporting Goods Foundation in addressing the issues facing youth sports today can donate at store checkouts or at SportsMatter.org until mid-September.