Connecticut Is Part of ESPN’s Strategic Focus on Corporate Citizenship Targeting Youth

There’s a change at ESPN.  The sports giant has launched a new citizenship strategy focused on using the power of sports for social good, and Connecticut is very much a part of the strategy. The launch includes a new name change (from Corporate Outreach to Corporate Citizenship), as well as a new website that highlights ESPN’s commitment to the community,,  Ed Durso, ESPN’s Executive Vice President of Administration, in explaining the overall strategy, said ESPN has “a tremendous legacy of giving and as our brand and reach have grown, so too has our commitment to the community. We are now taking a more strategic approach that focuses on using sports to transform lives and uplift communities.”

Durso explained that ESPN will focus in five key areas:espn

  • Access to Sports
  • Leadership Through Sports
  • The V Foundation
  • Good Neighbor grants
  • Sustainability

He noted that “ESPN can offer meaningful help to many in need. For example, it may be surprising to some, but youth sports participation in the U.S. has been on the decline since 2008. The decline is due to many factors and the problem is especially prevalent in underserved communities.

This is worrisome because sports is so important to development.”

teamespn_info_002“Studies show that kids who are physically active have higher test scores, are more likely to go to college, and smoke and drink less,” he added. ”Sports can also help build life skills, including enhancing self-esteem, unifying teams and driving social inclusion. By driving support to entities enhancing access to sports, we can help.”

Earlier this year, ESPN announced it would team up with the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) to award grants to seven local park and recreation departments in the U.S. that improve and expand their youth sports programs, especially in underserved communities.  The $150,000 grant would be targeted to purchase needed equipment, make improvements in facilities and help local parks expand their programs to give more children the opportunity to participate in community-based sports.

The communities receiving grants included Hartford, Los Angeles, Charlotte, Coral Gables, New York City and Austin.  In Hartford, the parks department set out to introduce 1,000 kids, ages 3-6 years, to the sport of soccer throughout the winter at inside recreation centers, with the objective of launching the "Litter Soccer Stars" league this spring, according to ESPN.

We believe that everyone should have the opportunity to play sports and be able to take advantage of its many benefits. ESPN is working with nonprofits to develop sports curriculum, distribute sports equipment and create safe spaces to play sports. We’re also finding ways to foster physical development, leadership and life skills through sports. We’re working with others who share this vision, and together hope to make sports more accessible, especially to those in underserved communities,” Durso explained.

A 2014 study from the University of Kansas suggests that if students are given a compelling reason to come to school—even if that reason has nothing to do with academics – they will. University of Kansas’s Angela Lumpkin and Rebecca Achen analyzed high-school testing, graduation, and attendance data and found that Kansas’s student athletes go to school more often than non-athletes. They also have higher graduation rates: 98 percent of athletes in Kansas’s class of 2012 graduated, compared with 90 percent of non-athletes.

An article published in The Atlantic pointed out “The higher graduation rates could be explained away by the theory that teachers have lower standards for athletes—that they’re willing to let athletes pass without doing all the work. But state test data challenges that theory: Athletes also score highfuture filmmakerer on the Kansas state assessments than non-athletes, in all subject areas. They are clearly learning something in their classes.”

ESPN has also included 32 colleges and universities across the country in a new initiative with the legendary Tribeca Film Institute for budding filmmakers.   Connecticut’s Quinnipiac University, University of Hartford, and Connecticut College are among the eligible institutions.   The TFI/ESPN Future Filmmaker Prize will award three graduate level media makers devoted to creating short-form documentaries highlighting the exceptionally creative work of an athletic community or organization that is working towards solving social issues in the United States or around the world. Submissions opened May 5 and close July 5.

The prize aims to support the next generation of filmmakers in producing creative, story-driven films that highlight issues of social importance through the lens of sports, athletics and or competition with a $25,000 production grant.

Recipientsteamespn_icons_008 will also receive professional guidance and mentorship from TFI staff and select media professionals. Along with the monetary grant, the three filmmaking teams will participate in a two-day workshop in the fall with activities tailored to their needs and culminating with an industry showcase to both celebrate their work and introduce them to the filmmaking community at large.

The workshop will include pitch training, story structure lectures, footage critiques, master classes led by industry leaders and one-on-one meetings with industry professionals and nonprofit athletic institutions. Also, each grantee will be paired with a current or former Tribeca Film Fellow. They will work closely together throughout all aspects of the filmmaking process from production to editing.



Concussions in NFL, Youth Sports Earn Attention from Media, Government, Coalition

A number of the nation’s most prominent youth sports organizations announced this week that they will be partnering with concussion specialists, sports medicine professionals and leaders at other levels of sports to create an unprecedented coalition to focused on concussions among young athletes.

The announcement comes the same week as a major report on the NFL’s two decades of denial of a connection between football and brain injury, aired on Public Broadcasting System (PBS) stations across the country, including in Connecticut, as part of the investigative “Frontline” series.

The National Sports Concussion Coalition expects to be "the most comprehensive alliance of its kind", with science and medical leaders in the fields of concussions, brain injHeads-Up-Concussion-In-Youth-Sports-CDCury and sports medicine working directly with a cross-section of organizations and governing bodies that represent millions of athletes across major organized sports in the United States. The partnership aims to share data and identify best safety practices that can assist in coaching, playing and officiating across sports.

To help ensure the health and safety of young athletes, this past spring the federal government's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention developed the Heads Up: Concussion in Youth Sports initiative to offer information about concussions to coaches, parents, and athletes involved in youth sports. The  initiative provides important information on preventing, recognizing, and responding to a concussion.  A series of fact sheets and an informational video for players, coaches and families are available on the CDC website,

The founding youth sports and medical members of the newly formed coalition include the National Council of Youth Sports (NCYS), Pop Warner Little Scholars, Sports Concussion Institute (SCI), US Lacrosse, US Youth Soccer, USA Hockey, American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), Amateur Softball Association/USA Softball, USA Basketball, USA Football and the Datalys Center for Sports Injury Research and Prevention. Coalition partners at the professional, college and foundation levels include the NCAA, NFL, NFLPA and National Football Foundation.

Connecticut Law

Just two weeks ago, Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy and Attorney General George Jepsen issued a news release reminding student athletes, parents and coaches that head injuries and concussions are serious and that Connecticut law requires students who suffer a blow to the head or receive a concussion diagnosis to sit out games and practices until cleared by a licensed medical professional.

“A concussion is a very serious injury, and an athlete who has suffered a concussion needs time to heal,” said Attorney General Jepsen. “While proper use of helmets and protective equipment is important, it’s critical to remember that no helmet can fully prevent a concussion. Preventing head injuries by limiting contact is key. Parents, athletes and coaches should educate themselves in order to recognize the signs of injury and prevent concussions in youth sports.”frontline

Under Connecticut law, anyone who has a state-issued coaching permit and who coaches intramural or interscholastic athletics must be periodically trained in how to recognize and respond to head injuries and concussions. State law also requires coaches to take a student athlete out of any game or practice if the athlete shows signs of having suffered a concussion after an observed or suspected blow to the head or if the athlete is diagnosed with a concussion. Coaches must keep athletes out of games and practices until receiving written clearance from a licensed medical professional.  Connecticut's youth sports concussion safety law was signed on May 18, 2010 by Governor M. Jodi Rell, and the state was among the first in the nation to enact a comprehensive policy.

 “Sports have the power to change the lives of millions of young people in this country by encouraging a physically active lifestyle and by teaching lifelong lessons. We want to make sure no child loses that opportunity due to fear of injury,” said Jon Butler, executive director of Pop Warner Little Scholars. “By coming together in this very important fight against concussions we believe our collective efforts will transcend our individual sports and benefit everyone.”

"The NCAA is committed to broad concussion education outreach, and to research that will identify objective biomarkers and sound management guidelines. We are excited about our partnership in this important alliance," said Brian Hainline, M.D., chief medical officer of the NCAA.

Documentary Production

The PBS program “League in Denial” began as a joint effort between PBS and the ESPN program “Outside the Lines,” announced in 2012.  Earlier this year, ESPN removed itself from the collaborative endeavor.

In a statement at the time, the network said “Because ESPN is neither producing nor exercising editorial control over the Frontline documentaries, there will be no co-branding involving ESPN on the documentaries or their marketing materials. The use of ESPN's marks could incorrectly imply that we have editorial control. As we have in the past, we will continue to cover the concussion story through our own reporting.”

The Bristol-based sports network has initiated major stories on the concussion issue in recent years, and ESPN reporters Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru have written a book – published this week - about football and brain injuries -- "League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions and the Battle for Truth," and are prominently featured in the PBS program.

Sports Statistics Conference Features Sabermetrics As Part of National, Global Focus on Influences of Stats

Connecticut-based ESPN is among the sponsors for the upcoming New England Symposium on Statistics in Sports, to be held on September 21 at Harvard University, that will include a panel discussion to feature Eric Van, sabermetric baseball operations consultant for the Boston Red Sox, Ben Baumer, who handled statistical analysis for the New York Mets from 2004 through 2012, and Vince Gennnaro, a consultant to a number of Major League Baseball teams during the past decade.

Panel moderator is Andy Andres, head coach and lead instructor of the MIT Science of Baseball program and Fenway Park datacaster/stringer for    Featured speakers are Jim Albert of Bowling Green State University, on “Assessing Streakiness in Home Run Hitting,” and Richard Smith, of the University of North Carolina, who will present for the first-time a statistical model for predicting the finish times of individuals who were running in the 2013 Boston Marathon but were unable to complete the race, as previously reported by Connecticut by the Numbers.

NESSISThe Symposium is a meeting of statisticians and quantitative analysts connected with sports teams, sports media, and universities to discuss common problems of interest in statistical modeling and analysis of sports data. The symposium is part of a year-long series of programs and events around the world during the International Year of Statistics.

In addition to the featured presentations, the scheduled presentations at the Sept. 21 Symposium will focus on statistical research and analysis conducted in areas including:

  • statistics-based revisions to defensive alignments in the NBA,
  • how weather affects the knuckleball,
  • whether crossing helps or hurts scoring in premier soccer, and
  • trends such as match time and game duration in professional tennis.

Co-chairs of the conference are Mark Glickman, Senior Statistician at Boston University and Scott Evans, Senior Research Scientist at Harvard.   Registration is now open for the day-long symposium.

ESPN operates a Stats & Info blog that shares with fans the information that the ESPN Stats & Information Group provides to its production teams around the company. The Stats & Info blog's content is a must-read at ESPN - on-camera talent, producers, bloggers,ESPN stats & info columnists and editors use Stats & Info insight on a daily basis. Individuals can subscribe to the blog for around-the-clock notes, stats and trends, using a blend of traditional statistics and the advanced metrics that the network describes as  the "next level."

Industry sponsors Sports Data Hub, ESPN Stats & Info, RStudio and Revolution Analytics, as well as the Harvard Statistics Department, the Boston Chapter of the American Statistical Association, and the Section in Sports of the American Statistical Association are providing support for the conference.

National Outreach Symposium in November

Sports are but one aspect of the growing use of statistics throughout everyday life.  The U.S. government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics is working with other federal agencies to host an outreach symposium November 13 and 14, 2013 to celebrate the International Year of Statistics 2013.

The goal of IYSTATLogothis two-day event is to present an overview of statistical methodologies and how they can be applied to diverse applications in econometrics, demography, medicine, agriculture, energy, transportation, and more. The audience for the planned symposium, to be held in Washington, D.C., will come from a diverse background of users and consumers of government statistics, data, and analyses.

The objectives of the International Year of Statistics initiative and  awareness campaign are to increase public understanding of the power and impact of statistics on all aspects of society, and nurture statistics as a profession, especially among high school and college students.

Organizers of the year-long effort – with than 2,000 participating organizations world-wide - note that “statistics have powerful and far-reaching effects on everyone, yet most people are unaware of their connection—from the foods they eat to the medicines they take—and how statistics improve their lives.” In Connecticut, participating organizations include the University of Connecticut and Connecticut by the Numbers.