LOS ANGELES – Drive down any given street in the Santa Clarita Valley and it’s nearly impossible not to come across a basketball court, soccer field, park or really any athletic facility.
Making sure that kids like the ones in Santa Clarita take advantage of those facilities and building them in the Los Angeles area for those that don’t have them is a goal of the Laureus Foundation, which held its inaugural summit on Wednesday in downtown LA.
Olympic athlete Allyson Felix has seen both the luxuries of Santa Clarita youth sports and the dearth of resources in other areas of Los Angeles.
“I grew up in the heart of LA,” Felix told The Signal, “and so moving out there at the high school age and then being able to kind of witness what’s kind of happening at the youth level, I think … It’s such great opportunities and such great facilities and fields and all those things.
“A lot of times, kids who are born into that don’t really know how amazing it is, but I think it’s awesome that they get to grow up with those experiences.”
Although she attended LA Baptist, Felix resided in Santa Clarita throughout high school and still has a home there that she visits often.
Playing basketball for most of her life, Felix didn’t begin her track and field career until high school. Since then, she has become the most decorated track and field athlete, earning six gold medals between the 200- and 400-meter races in addition to the 4×100 and 4×400 relay.
She said that playing multiple sports instead of focusing on one while growing up helped her find athletic success.
“I don’t think it’s really necessary,” she said of athlete specialization. “You do see success stories where that works out, but I think by giving them a range of different sports, it really just gives them a foundation to be successful whether they go on in professional sports or they don’t. There’ so many lessons that can help you in other aspects of life.”
Felix shares the mission of the Laureus Foundation to create sports equity and give every kid an equal opportunity to pursue the sport they love regardless of demographic.
According to the 2017 Sport for Good Report, released by Laureus USA, 851,676 youth athletes were reached by 141 sports programs. Forty-three percent were female, 56 percent were male and one percent identified as non-binary.
The top demographics were black/African American (45 percent), Latino (28 percent) and white/Caucasian (14 percent).
“I think the exposure piece is key and I think like, even what’s happening here today with Laureus and what they’re doing in Los Angeles is really a positive thing for the future,” Felix said.
“I hope that what it looks like, kind of just in a broad view, is that kids from all communities will be able to have the resources and the facilities and all the things that kids in Santa Clarita have that we’ll do a good job of being able to provide everyone with really great programs.”