Laureus Sport for Good Foundation USA and Mercedes-Benz USA team up to tackle New York City’s tough youth issues

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New York City, June 21, 2012

The Laureus Sport for Good Foundation USA in collaboration with Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA), the company and its dealers, is addressing the recent onslaught of New York’s after-school budget cuts with -an innovative solution.  

In 2012, the New York City initiative will train and place 120 coaches in 15 sports-based youth development projects in underserved neighborhoods in all five boroughs that will mentor approximately 10,000 city children. Laureus USA has selected Coach Across America as their delivery partner.

This regional initiative is part of a nationwide program that, with a $1.3 million national commitment from MBUSA to the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, focuses on training and placing 250 coaches through Coach Across America in sports-based youth development projects in underserved neighborhoods in five U.S. cities: Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Miami and New Orleans.

Yesteday afternoon at 3:00 PM EST, the city-wide initiative kicked off with dealer partners and employees from MBUSA along with Laureus World Sports Academy Member and nine-time Olympic Champion Mark Spitz, as well as elected officials, guests and staff, visiting Play Rugby USA  an innovative program that combines rugby with sports education, health, academic and community development programming to create a holistic and asset-based approach to youth development. Underlying the program’s success is the establishment of sustainable partnerships with urban schools and youth organizations, Coach Across America is creating a systematic opportunity for youth during or after school.

“Mercedes-Benz USA and our dealer partners have a long tradition of supporting and giving back to our communities. When you combine that with MBUSA’s extensive involvement in high-profile sports events, this is an undertaking that really makes sense for us and provides a real benefit to youth across the country,” said Steve Cannon, president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA.

“We believe in the transformational power of sport as a tool for social good. Today’s coaches go beyond the traditional sense of the term ‘coach,’” said Edwin Moses, who also serves as the chairman of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation USA. “They are mentors, community organizers and mediators. Investing in proper training and offering support for these coaches is vital to sports-based youth development, especially as youth violence and obesity escalate and school-based programs continue to be decimated by budget cuts. Initiatives like this are essential in America to fill the gap.”

Recent budget cuts to childcare and after-school programs are expected to impact up to 90,000 young people in New York. In the last two years alone, $3.5 billion has been cut from school sports budgets nationally, resulting in 16.5 million youth with little to no access to sports. With staggering childhood obesity statistics – an estimated 33 percent of American youth are overweight or obese by third grade and in New York City, one in five kindergarten children is obese. Solutions to combat these issues affecting youth are sorely needed.

Along with parents and teachers, coaches play a crucial role in developing character in today’s youth. But a recent GAO report confirmed that despite this important role, quality coaches are in short supply.1 Proper coaching increases the chance of  better grades, better behavior, healthier lives and longer life due to fitness activity.  

Additionally, this initiative will provide employment opportunities, relevant experience and scholarships in the sport for development sector for young adults in this tough economy. Many of the coaches recruited by Coach Across America will be college graduates from the local community. The projects where they will be placed include: America Scores NY, American Youth Table Tennis, Asphalt Green, Beat the Streets, City Soccer in the Community, Harlem RBI, I Challenge Myself, New Heights Youth, Nike Camp Skate, Nike DYCD Community Centers, Play Rugby USA, Power Play NYC, Inc., Row New York, United Youth League, and Urban Dove.

“The positive influence coaches can have on today’s underserved youth is undeniable,” said James Kallusky, director of Coach Across America. “The generous support from both Mercedes-Benz USA and Laureus Sport for Good Foundation USA will allow Coach Across America to both broaden and deepen its impact by providing new coaches in New York.”

One beneficiary of Coach Across America is Ktrice McNeill, who turned to a basketball court to avoid gang violence and drugs. Ktrice used his basketball skills to earn a scholarship to attend Southern Connecticut State University. After receiving his college degree, Ktrice returned to New York and joined Coach Across America to coach in the same community center he turned to as his sanctuary.

“When I started coaching, I had kids ask me to be their dad or brother,” he said. “I told them ‘I can’t be your dad, but I can be your role model.’ On my cell phone I have numbers for 100 kids that can call me any time they need me.”