Youth Sports Alliance influence noticeable in upcoming Winter Games
Perhaps no organization outside of public education in Park City has provided so much to local athletes as the Youth Sports Alliance.
Founded in 2002, the YSA was created to keep children and young people participating in winter sports in the greater Park City area.
“We had all these amazing venues after the 2002 Games, and we wanted to make sure the local community was getting outside and was able to keep using and growing those venues,” Emily Fisher, executive director of the YSA said.
This season, that effort is paying off in very tangible ways.
According to the YSA, more than 95 athletes with connections to the organization are competing for spots on national teams, such as moguls racer Jack Kariotis, ski jumpers Sarah Hendrickson and Will Rhoads, Nordic combined athlete Bryan Fletcher, and short track speed skaters Maame Biney and Jessica Smith Korreman.
These athletes are supported in several ways. Some were trained through the clubs that the YSA supports, like Park City Ski and Snowboard, as well as after-school programs, while others have received direct scholarships based on their needs.
Providing funding or athletic programming to those athletes has been possible through the organization’s deep coffers, originally raised through contributions. By raising more than $2 million through the help of dedicated athletes like Stein Eriksen and Ted Ligety, who made it their mission to help the YSA reach that goal, the organization can now draw down the interest from its banked funds instead of relying on fresh donations.
Thanks to the endowment they established, the YSA is giving out more money than ever.
“We’re hoping to get close to $100,000 distributed (this season) when we throw in the spring as well, which would be a pretty incredible statistic,” said Jan Mitchell, project manager at the YSA.
According to Fisher, athletes that discovered their sports through the YSA’s after-school programs like Activ8 and Get Out and Play are just now getting to the age where they can compete for Olympic berths, which makes this year particularly exciting for the organization.
“Our Get out and Play program athletes are still a little bit young, so they might not make it to the Olympics this time,” Fisher said. “But I think we have 95 people from that program that are vying for Olympic spots, so that’s exciting.”
YSA employees are not coaches, and therefore don’t have much direct contact with athletes, but that doesn’t mean staffers aren’t excited to see the people they have helped succeed, especially at the Olympics.
“It’s the highlight every four years,” Mitchell said. “We love what we do — providing opportunities for kids — and honestly it’s really fun to see the hard work of all these athletes and coaches in the Olympic year.”
Mitchell said each year the organization provides programming for roughly 2,500 kids.
Because some of those local athletes have citizenship with other nations, the YSA’s influence can be seen on other international teams as well. For instance, Brendan “Bubba” Newby and John Brown are hoping to compete in freeskiing events for Ireland, Izzy Atkin is a medal contender in slopestyle for Great Britain and Dominic Demschar hopes to represent Australia in alpine skiing.
All this to say, come February, the YSA and Park City will have a lot of options to cheer for.