2019 Year in Review & 2020 Resolutions

What a year! This week we’ve been spending time with family and friends, taking a breather and reflecting on our progress and impact before we get back at it for 2020. Trying to put ‘highlights’ from the year into a blog never quite feels natural, as most of our impact we know comes in small, individual wins. This can be one of our kids trying something new in after-school, feeling a sense of belonging on a team, improving their physical fitness, showing empathy to another in their group, or showcasing leadership skills that they’ve built. 

With that caveat, here are just a handful of the programs and accomplishments we are so proud of from 2019. 

  • Over 22,000+ children across all five boroughs participated in Kids in the Game programs in 2019, across school programs, summer and break camps, travel teams, field days, and special events. 
  • We expanded our summer camp in Riverdale, forming a new partnership with the Riverdale Neighborhood House, giving our camp much more space, a new pool to utilize, and two campuses for the camp. Our other four camps also expanded and evolved, adding new trips and programming, and moving to a new building for our Upper East Side Camp at IANY. Our campers also had a great summer with the overwhelming majority making new friends from different schools and neighborhoods, building positive relationships with their coaches, and getting to explore new and exciting activities. 
  • Early in the year we won the Laureus Innovation Grant and ran the first ever middle school esports league, which was featured in Fortune, Yahoo, and Whistle Sports. The program model combines physical activity with NBA2K and FIFA in a competitive season between four of our schools. We had an exciting final at the Helix Gaming Center in NJ. 70% of the participants had never been a part of a competitive team before, and 85%+ of the participants said they improved their skills in both the esport game as well as the traditional sport skills – pretty cool! 
  • As the school year wound down, we partnered with the NYC Department of Education and provided eight mini field days for high schools across four boroughs. This combined sports, dance, and games, as well as helped the high school PE teachers end the year on an extremely high note. 
  • In partnership with the New York Knicks and Benefit Games, we brought friends, family, staff, and supporters together to play a fundraiser basketball game with some of the Knicks greats. We raised $26,000 for scholarships into our programs and took away plenty of memories from the day. 
  • We rebranded! As we’ve evolved, we felt the need to get ready for the new decade and update our colors, logo, and messaging. The process was much more than ‘rebranding;’ it was a contemplative process, that allowed us to really define the ‘why’ of our organization, our personality, our tone, and our focus. We hope you like it! 
  • Our KING Hoops program had quite the year, expanding the boys program while launching our girls teams for the first time as well. Our program had a 44-16 record this fall (our best yet!) and we were invited to participate in the highly competitive Under Armour Rise Circuit next spring, which is a huge accomplishment for our players and coaches. More so, the teams did study hall, tutoring, SAT prep, and college visits throughout the year as a part of our Heisman Trophy Trust Grant. This program is supported by our coaches and volunteers, and has a profound impact on the overall impact of these teams in both academics and life-skills. Last year 92% of our graduating players went on to attend college, and the team’s overall grade percentages rose by 4%. Not to mention 91% of the players increased their skills in self-management, 77% improved in increasing positive identity, and 100% increased in three or more Social and Emotional Learning categories. 
  • We launched a flag football league, a growing sport in the city, working with the NY Jets to provide the kids with jerseys and equipment. We’re looking forward to expanding this league in Spring 2020 for more participants and competition!
  • Our team continued to grow, as we added three new leadership team members: Sandy Persaud (Chief People Officer), Chandra Labonte (Employee Relations Coordinator), and Stennett Smith (Creative Marketing Manager). In addition to the leadership team, our team of amazing coaches grew to 150 strong, aligned with our five core values: Committed, Inclusive, Empathetic, Positive, and Ambitious. 
  • With the growth, the company was recognized by Inc Magazine for the 2nd year in a row, being named #825 on the Inc 5000 Fastest Growing Companies list. Within the Education category, we were #15 overall, nationwide. 
  • We could spend this entire article highlighting ALL of our amazing team members, but wanted to make sure we don’t miss two special coaches in 2019: 
    • Jason Colon – Our Kids in the Game Coach of the Year, Jason exudes the Kids in the Game Core Values, puts a smile on all of our kids’ faces, sees the positive in any situation, and was a near unanimous pick as the Coach of the Year at our end of the year awards ceremony. 
    • Tiffany Corselli – Kids in the Game has a long-standing partnership with Up2Us Sports, which helps promote positive coaching across the US. Tiffany recently completed her year long program with Up2Us Sports and was named National Coach of the Year! We celebrated her accomplishment by watching her walk the red carpet and address a packed room, followed by the debut of a video where she was featured. We are so proud of Coach Tiffany! 
  • Our team continued to contribute to the youth development and social impact sectors more broadly in 2019. We presented at several conferences, including the American Camp Association National Conference, the NYS Physical Education Conference, and the National After-School Association. We had two team members (myself and Tatum Boehnke) complete the Echoing Green Direct Impact fellowship, traveling to Nepal and South Africa for non-profit consulting and site visits as a part of the program. This experience was invaluable for continuing to grow and build our foundation arm of Kids in the Game. Wilson Rose, our COO, is also on the founding board of the Laureus Sport for Good Council, an important platform for the industry. 

2020 Vision

Looking ahead at 2020, there are plenty more programs and highlights to come. But instead of focusing on the programs themselves, here are just a handful of themes for our 2020 vision and beyond. 

  1. Equal participation between girls and boys – Whether this is in after-school, on our teams, in our camps, wherever; we want to encourage our young female leaders to be in the game and stay in the game. We’re particularly focused on some alarming rates of drop-out for girls in middle school sports. 
  2. Finding the intersection of Sports and STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, Math) – Our kids are growing up with screens. They socialize through their screens, work with their screens, etc. For us, we are all about being active; that’s our core. However, we don’t want to ignore technology as a way to create positive social experiences and to encourage kids to participate. 91% of today’s youth are active in computer and videogame play on a consistent basis. Our Esports program and others we’re working on are helping to address this uneasy growth of screen time in an attempt to make it productive. 
  3. Building emotional intelligence – We’ve all heard that our jobs are going to be taken over by robots, or at least a lot of them. Instead of worrying about that, at Kids in the Game we’re focused on preparing our youth for what we call ‘2032 job skills’. And surprisingly enough, we believe that a lot of these skills aren’t hard skills like computer science and math. These skills are self-awareness, problem solving, self-regulation, empathy, and other pieces that make up emotional intelligence. The amazing thing is that sports, physical activity, camps, and more all give children ample opportunities to develop these skills, and our coaches are trained to bring this out in them. 
  4. Let’s connect our communities! – What makes NYC such an amazing place is our diversity, the culture, the mix of beliefs, and the difference in backgrounds that all make up the world’s greatest city. The unfortunate reality is that our youth are very much segregated across schools and neighborhoods, which we feel doesn’t fully allow them to bridge the divide we so commonly see in our country today. We will continue to strive to find ways we can connect our schools and youth to help build connections and understanding. 

Looking forward to sharing updates with all of you throughout the year! We’re excited for what’s ahead.