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Volume 20 No. 41
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Good Sports pitches in with equipment and apparel donations

When it comes to youth sports, it’s gotta be the shoes. Not to mention the bats, balls, shoulder pads, helmets and the rest of the apparel and equipment it takes to play sports of every type. This makes the mission of Massachusetts-based nonprofit Good Sports all the more important in these budget-strained times. Founded in 2003, the organization focuses on inner-city and disadvantaged children.

As schools across all income levels grapple with reduced budgets and other funding woes, a disproportionate effect can be seen in urban areas, where participation is 40 percent lower than in the suburbs, said Christy Keswick, Good Sports chief operating officer.

The nonprofit focuses on inner-city and disadvantaged children.
Participation fees have become more commonplace in recent years to restore lost funding, but in urban areas schools cut sports or reduce what is offered because they know families can’t afford to pay the fees, she said.

Enter Good Sports, which seeks apparel and equipment from manufacturers and then donates the items to Pop Warner and Little League programs, school athletic programs and community recreation centers across the country. Past and present donors include Easton Sports, New Balance, Nike, Reebok, Spalding and Wilson, among others.

“What we’re trying to accomplish, within schools and externally, is just to make sure kids have the option and the opportunity to continue to play sports,” Keswick said. “We have found through research that equipment is a huge driver of the cost of sports programs.”

To date, Good Sports has donated just under $6 million worth of equipment and apparel, benefiting 300,000 kids spread across 750 youth programs. In the past year, the organization has worked in 30 states.

Spalding was the first company to come aboard when Good Sports launched with a mission of serving kids in the Boston area.

Dan Touhey, who served as a Spalding marketing executive at the time, said the concept resonates with manufacturers for several reasons. It allows companies to clear out aging inventory with tax-deductible benefits, helps children play sports and improve their health and, not least, provides brand awareness to kids who may become customers as they get older.

In 2006, Spalding introduced a new NBA game ball made of synthetic material that led to so many player complaints it was shelved after a couple of months of use. Being able to donate the unused and unwanted game balls “helped make a bad situation better,” Touhey said.

Erik Spanberg writes for the Charlotte Business Journal, an affiliated publication.