Heisman Trophy Fund for Youth Development

Vita Sports Partners, founded by Play Rugby USA CEO Mark Griffin, recently secured funding from the Heisman Trophy Fund for Youth Development to bring Sports-Based Youth Development (SBYD) programs to two schools in Harlem, NY, with the hopes of adding more in the future.

The project brings together six SBYD organizations: Play Rugby USA, Beat the Streets and Row New York, who are all members of the Vita SBYD Hub, along with Wellness in the Schools, America SCORES and Stoked. Each organization specializes in a specific activity or sport, but each also brings an expertise in the area of youth development that will have a tremendous impact on the students at both PS 208 and PS 76. At the completion of the project, each SBYD organization will have delivered a 6-week physical education program, along with a 12-week after-school program, to each school.

Jesse Dilevo, curriculum coordinator at Play Rugby USA and project lead, notes, “The students are receiving the opportunity to participate in high-quality SBYD programs to help them experience positive character development opportunities and gain life-long skills.”


The students are not the only ones benefitting from this project, however. Physical education teachers will receive a 6-week curriculum, including unit plans and lesson plans, from each of the organizations at the end of the school year, which will allow them to recreate these units in their classes in the future. Even though the teachers may have taught or coached these specific sports and activities before, this project is giving them the opportunity to do so with a lens that is more focused on holistic youth development.

Play Rugby USA is the lead SBYD organization assigned to the project and oversaw the onboarding of schools and the program scheduling. With such a great relationship with PS 208 already in place, Play Rugby was fortunate enough to kick off the project by delivering the first season of programming there.

“Alongside great SBYD organizations, with such strong leadership and coaches, we are very excited to hit the ground running at the start of this winter season,” says Jesse.




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