Win or lose. We just want to play. According to the Aspen Institute Project Play, the average child spends less than three years playing a sport, quitting by age 11, most often because the sport just isn’t fun anymore. As the Little League Region and World Series Tournaments come into full swing, Little League and ESPN have teamed up to launch a new public service announcement (PSA) campaign aimed at addressing the rise in win-at-all costs behavior by parents and coaches and the negative impact it has on children just looking to have fun in sport.
“The vast majority of adults in youth sports are in it for the right reasons, however, we want to use our platform to highlight the negative impact that behaviors by overbearing parents and coaches can have on a child’s youth sports experience,” said Liz DiLullo Brown, Little League Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, and mother of two. “Our two new PSAs, created in partnership with ESPN, take on this important topic, reminding us that the kids are the most important beneficiary of a positive youth sports experience. Little League International is proud of all the adult volunteers and caregivers doing it the right way at fields around the world, however, it’s time to directly address the need to support our players and their experience when adult behavior creates a negative environment.”
The launch of these two new PSAs, which will air during the 340 Little League games broadcast on the ESPN Family of Networks this summer, coincides with the launch of the new Little League Diamond Leader Training Program. Created as a part of the Million Coaches Challenge, established by the Susan Crown Exchange to train a million coaches with the goal of improving the youth sports experience, the Diamond Leader program is a free educational experience for Little League coaches and volunteers. This digital learning experience focuses on providing Little League volunteers with the tools they need to support the social and emotional aspects of youth sports, in coordination with the Aspen Institute’s Project Play. The Little League Diamond Leader Program launched as a pilot program this summer and is anticipated to be rolled out to all Little League volunteers in 2023.
Filmed at Darien (Conn.) Little League with the league’s players and volunteers participating in the production, rather than child actors, the Tale of Two Coaches PSA (view) follows the back-and-forth of two Little League teams. One coach takes a win-at-all-costs approach, while the other focuses on providing a positive player experience, showing the impact of those two approaches on their respective Little Leaguers®. The Kids Have Had Enough PSA (view) follows a team’s reaction to an opposing player’s father berating him from behind the fence.
“We have been proud to work with Little League on their PSAs over the past few years, and we were intrigued when they presented these ideas to us for this year’s campaign,” said Geoffrey Bird, ESPN Senior Writer/Producer. “Working with long-time collaborator Barrett Esposito of Winter Films, we were excited to partner on these two pieces that we hope can have a positive impact on improving the youth sports experience.”
The PSA campaign is the latest in Little League’s efforts to continue to promote a player-centric experience across all 6,500 leagues in more than 80 countries around the world. In the past three years, in addition to the launch of its new Little League Diamond Leader Program, Little League has enhanced its free resources on Little League University; brought to life its Little League Sandlot Fun Days program, an unstructured, player-led playing opportunity; enhanced its Girls with Game initiative, celebrating female participation; and has been recognized as an Aspen Institute Project Play Champion.
“Countless children get their introduction to youth sports through Little League, and the adult volunteers who support this experience have a great responsibility in fostering their love of the game and instilling the life lessons that come from participating in sports,” said Nina Johnson-Pitt, Little League Senior Strategy Executive, and mother of three. “Thanks to the support from the Susan Crown Exchange through the Million Coaches Challenge, we’re eager to roll out the Little League Diamond Leader Program as one of our newest initiatives to help provide our volunteers with the support they need, as they give back to their children in their community. This PSA campaign calls out the all-too-real experiences our children are feeling in youth sports today, and it’s more important than ever for Little League to lead the way in improving adult behavior at fields and courts around the world.”
To watch these new PSAs, be sure to tune in to the 2022 Little League Baseball and Softball Region and World Series Tournaments on the ESPN family of networks all summer long, concluding with the 75th Anniversary of the Little League Baseball World Series on August 17-28. For more information, including a full game schedule and TV listings for each game, be sure to visit LittleLeague.org/WorldSeries.