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Volume 22 No. 35
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Plugged In: Melissa Harper, CEO, Good Sports Inc.

As CEO of Good Sports Inc., Melissa Harper has spent more than a decade running a nonprofit company that collects and distributes donated sporting goods to youth organizations across the country as a way to increase participation rates in youth sports. Good Sports cites data from the Sports and Fitness Industry Association that shows a steady decline in the participation rate in youth sports over the past decade, a time when child obesity rates have been on the rise. Harper, who has been with Good Sports since its founding in 2003, targets teams, sporting goods companies and other sports organizations in her work to reverse those numbers.

When you look at youth sports, historically it was in a recreational environment where anyone could play. Most of the programs provided everything the kids needed. Now, when kids show up, there are fees associated that didn’t exist 30 years ago. It has turned into a


On how Good Sports works with pro teams: Most get inundated with requests from local charities to participate, and most front offices have a very small community relations staff. Very few have the capacity to evaluate the requests, so they look at us as an extension of their community relations. They can funnel those requests to Good Sports, and as a result, they do not have to say no. Teams also like to get their athletes out in the community, and we can identify organizations and deliver equipment, and the credit goes to the teams.

On working with businesses: With sponsors, a lot come not just wanting their name on the side of a stadium; they want to feel a bit more engaged in the community. Manufacturers work with us for three primary reasons. Some are looking at sports and seeing fewer kids playing and they need grassroots solutions. Some look at using the equipment programs to get more kids to play. Also, from an operations standpoint, they have excess gear and they need to move it out for the new stuff that is coming in. Rather than discarding it, or selling it at a deep discount, they donate it to us. We can report where the equipment went with all the details of the donation, and it turns into a positive story they can tell.

On Good Sports’ biggest hurdle: We have a really high rate of success, but the challenge is making sure that folks are aware of us. Once we get to that level, they see the value very quickly and we get to a mutually beneficial relationship. It is just a matter of getting in front of them.

On measuring the impact of their efforts: We have distributed over $15 million worth of equipment nationwide. We have donated in every state. When you dig below that, we look for things like, Are the organizations able to start new programs or add age groups or add quality?

— John Lombardo