Morning Plenary:

Midday Plenary:

Afternoon Plenary:


The Project Play Summit is the nation’s premier gathering of leaders at the intersection of youth, sport and health. Where game-changers from the eight sectors that touch the lives of children take next steps in building healthy communities through sports. Where new initiatives are announced, and new tools are released. Where the boldest funders and ideas collide, inspiring new partnerships and actions.

This year our theme is “Think Global, Play Local.” Speakers include NBA legend Kobe Bryant, skateboarding legend Tony Hawk, Olympic track and field champion Jackie Joyner-Kersee, NBC Sports broadcaster Mary Carillo, and other domestic as well as international trailblazers who can help U.S. leaders identify opportunities for innovation. The Summit will feature an array of keynotes and panels, interactive experiences, and a networking reception for 400+ leaders.

2018 Project Play Summit
October 16 | 8 a.m–4:45 p.m., with reception to follow
Knight Conference Center at the Newseum | 555 Pennsylvania Ave NW | Washington, D.C.

*indicates session will be livestreamed at


8:00 a.m. Check In + Breakfast

8:25 a.m. Welcome*
Mary Carillo, Broadcaster, NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics)
Dan Porterfield, President and CEO, Aspen Institute (@DanPorterfield)

8:35 a.m. State of Play: 2018*
Tom Farrey, Executive Director, Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program (@TomFarrey)

8:55 a.m. Ask Kids What They Want: What if Youth Designed Youth Sports?*

We call it youth sports, but it’s designed by adults, and if we’re honest with ourselves, for adults. Adults pick the teams, choose the coaches, and determine everything from the rules and uniform colors, to who makes which teams and plays which positions. Kids entertain us, and we hope they develop in certain ways, athletically and otherwise, through sports. But what if kids called shots? Created experiences that met their social and emotional needs? What would youth sports look like then? And who better to moderate this conversation than Kobe Bryant, who has made the social and emotional lives of kids playing sports a focus of his post-NBA work.

: Kobe Bryant, NBA Legend (@KobeBryant)

  • Zoe Barlow, 13-year-old soccer referee from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
  • Ka’olu Holt, 13-year-old Little League World Series champion from Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Shawkierra Mills, 12-year-old Special Olympics track athlete from Detroit, Michigan
  • Owen Norwood, 11-year-old multisport athlete from Mobile, Alabama

9:15 a.m. Overview of Day
Mary Carillo

9:20 a.m. Transition

9:30 a.m. Strategy Sessions #1

Think Small: Big Ideas from Small Countries

At the 2018 Winter Olympics, Norway won more medals (39) than any country in the history of the winter games. Not bad, for a nation with fewer citizens (5.3 million) than the state of Minnesota (5.6 million). How did they do it? By redesigning their sport system to promote development over winning, among other interventions introduced over the past generation. In this session, one of the architects of the sports system in Norway describes the blueprint that was put in place, which in turn has contributed to Norway’s status as one of the healthiest and most active nations in the world. He is joined by other international trailblazers who share breakthroughs made in other countries, as a means of helping U.S. stakeholders think out of the box as they develop their plans and programs.

: Laurence Chalip, Professor, Sports Recreation Studies and Sports Management, George Mason University

  • Inge Andersen, Former Secretary General, Olympic and Paralympic Committee and Confederation of Sport (Norway)
  • Patrick Massey, Project Manager, Portas Consulting (UK)
  • Matt Young, founder, 60 Minute Kids Club (Canada) (@mattyoung101)

Reintroduce Free Play: Organizing for Creative Expression

In this session, we explore how to introduce sport activity that is adult-created but child-owned. And how to apply the principles of “guided play” to all populations, including kids with autism.

: Gwen Oxenham, author, Finding the Game: Three Years, Twenty-Five Countries and the Search for Pickup Soccer (@gwenoxenham)

  • Constance Beverley, CEO, National Winter Sports Education Foundation
  • Matt Bowers, Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Kinesiology and Health Education, University of Texas at Austin
  • Izzy Paskowitz, Co-Founder, Surfer’s Healing

10:10 a.m. Transition

10:20 a.m. Strategy Sessions #2

Train All Coaches: Can a Free Tool Change the Game?

Through Project Play 2020, the US Olympic Committee and Nike have developed a free, online resource “How to Coach Kids” — a 30-minute experience that provides new or novice youth sports coaches confidence, inspiration and actionable tips to deliver great experiences to their under 12 teams. This session will explore the need to meet coaches where they are at, build them up, and how this tool can be utilized to fill an existing gap.

: Craig Morris, Chief Executive, Community Tennis, U.S. Tennis Association

  • Tierra McIntosh, Volunteer Coach, Volo City Kids Foundation
  • Wayne Moss, Executive Director, National Council of Youth Sports
  • Ben Reed, Specialist, Sports and Recreation, YMCA of the USA (@BenReedYMCA)
  • Chris Snyder, Director of Coaching Education, U.S. Olympic Committee

Revitalize In-Town Leagues: The Promise of Mixed Gender Play

Traditionally in many community leagues, children are separated into gender-specific teams as soon as they enter grade school. But do they need to be? Increasingly, leagues are pushing back on that orthodoxy, questioning the notion of a “level playing field” to have kids of all genders play on the same field. Whether an effort to increase girls’ participation in a traditionally male-dominated sport (football) or a response to a funding cut that required a creative solution to keep fielding teams, practitioners and researchers recognize the promise of mixed gender sports to get and keep kids active and healthy and create powerful spaces for kids to learn some of the most important social-emotional lessons. But how did a Milwaukee-based soccer team and a Washington, DC-founded flag football team actually do it?

Moderator: Risa Isard, Program Manager, Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program (@RisaLovesSports)

  • Kate Carpenter, America SCORES Milwaukee Executive Director, (@Kate_JCarpenter)
  • Carl Ehrlich, Founder and CEO, Flag Star Football
  • Marj Snyder, Senior Director, Research and Programs at the Women’s Sports Foundation (@MarjSnyder)

11 a.m. Transition


11:10 a.m. Welcome Back *
Mary Carillo

11:10 a.m. Soccer in the U.S.: What Story Can We Tell by the 2026 World Cup?*
Tom Farrey, Executive Director, Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program

Featured Speakers:

  • Ludovic Debru, Head of Institutional Affairs, French Football Federation
  • Nico Romeijn, Chief Sport Development Officer, U.S. Soccer Federation

11:35 a.m. Champions Announcement*        

11:40 a.m. The Meaning of Play with Kobe Bryant*
Kevin Carroll, author of Rules of the Red Rubber Ball (@kckatalyst)

Noon Lunch


12:40 p.m. Strategy Sessions #3

Encourage Sport Sampling: How to Use the World’s First Healthy Sport Index

Panelists will explore the value and features of the new Healthy Sport Index website and help attendees understand how to use the resource.

Moderator: Jon Solomon, Editorial Director, The Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society Program (@JonSolomonAspen)


  • Michael Kanters, Professor and Coordinator, Masters of Parks, Recreation, Tourism & Sport Management at North Carolina State University
  • Michele LaBotz, Member, Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness, American Academy of Pediatrics (@mlabotz)
  • Laura Robbins, Senior Vice President, Hospital for Special Surgery

Design for Development: Restructuring Competition for Better Outcomes

The structure of youth sports drives the culture of youth sports. Allow coaches to keep kids on the bench or sideline for most of the game, and parents get frustrated. Rank tennis players starting at age 10, and pressures grow on children to specialize early in that sport. In this session, innovators share lessons learned about what happened when they adjusted rules and competition formats that prioritized development over winning.

: Anya Alvarez, Producer, Major League Girls

  • André Lachance, Business and Sport Development Director – Women’s National Team Manager, Baseball Canada (@alachance)
  • Ken Martel, Technical Director, American Development Model, USA Hockey (@kenmhockey)
  • Lora Webster, Paralympic Gold Medalist, Sitting Volleyball

1:20 p.m. Transition

1:30 p.m. Strategy Sessions #4

Emphasize Prevention: What Next for the U.S. Olympic Movement?

The U.S. Olympic Committee has new leadership in the wake of the conviction of USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nasser for decades of sexual abuse. When hired, new CEO Sarah Hirshland said, “We must protect, support and empower athletes, young and old, elite and beginner. Olympic and Paralympic sport in the United States must be a shining example, able to provide athletes with the benefits of participation in an environment free from abuse of any kind. The USOC has made great strides in this area and I look forward to carrying on that critically important work.” But how best to do that – while also helping athletes develop their talent? The answer, some say, lies in the USOC and its affiliated National Governing Bodies of sports simply living up to the mandate of the Amateur Sports Act, which in 1978 asked those bodies to develop not just elite athletes – but coordinate development of our sports system, down to the grassroots. This session explores systems-level reforms that can be made to prevent all forms of abuse for athletes at all levels.  

Moderator: Tom Farrey, The Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program Executive Director

  • Alan Ashley, Chief of Sport Performance, U.S. Olympic Committee
  • Donna de Varona, Olympic Gold Medalist Swimmer
  • Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, CEO, Laureus Sport for Good Foundation (@benitafmosley)

Fast Break Ideas: Unexpected Solutions

As many of you know, the 2018 Project Play Summit theme is “Think Global, Play Local.” As a fun, innovative method developed in Japan as Pecha Kucha, our Fast Break Ideas presentations cover unexpected talent, ideas or solutions to a problem. It’s a play on what former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told our team one day: using sport as a tool of public health is an unexpected solution. And people like unexpected solutions, he said. So here we are. These Fast Break Ideas presentations at the highlight multiple partners exploring innovative ways to ensure all youth have access to sport and pump big ideas into the bloodstream in a compelling new format.


  • Qiana Patterson, Senior Director of Public Private Partnerships, HopSkipDrive
  • David Ridpath, Associate Professor of Sports Business, Ohio University (@drridpath)
  • Doug Rifenburg, Executive Director, Victory Sports Outreach, Inc. (@VictorySportsGO)
  • Trish Sylvia, Founder, National Center for Safety Initiatives

2:10 p.m. Transition


2:20 p.m. Welcome Back
Mary Carillo

Physical Activity Break
Steve Boyle, Founder and Director, 2-4-1 Sports (@steveboyle241)

2:35 p.m. Project Play Announcements + Champions*

2:50 p.m. Saturday Night Lights with Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr.* (@ManhattanDA)
Luis Fernando Llosa, Co-Founder, Whole Child Sports

3:15 p.m. Many Sports For All with Jackie Joyner-Kersee (@JJoynerKersee)*

3:30 p.m. Call for Leadership: How to Empower Parents as Agents of Change?*

Parents believe in the power of sports and want their child to get and stay involved, but they’re often lost on how to do that. They don’t know what to believe, or where to turn, for good information. This session explores how to give them guidance on how to make good decisions with their kids. It starts with 10-minute discussion with a parent, then brings in members of Project Play 2020 to introduce the new Parent Engagement Campaign and share thoughts on how to address these gaps.


  • Joe Figini, Washington D.C. parent of 11-year-old son
  • Andi Nielsen, Communications and Marketing Director, Target (@AndreaNielsen)
  • Jessica Berman, Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility, National Hockey League
  • Jenny Storms, Chief Marketing Officer, NBC Sports

4:10 p.m. Project Play Announcements*

4:20 p.m. Landing with Impact with Tony Hawk (@tonyhawk)*

4:45 p.m. Closing Comments + Adjourn to Networking Reception

7:00 p.m. Summit Reception Concludes

Registration for the Summit is sold out. Place your name on the wait list to be notified if space becomes available. Additional ways to engage with the Summit:

Thank you to our sponsors for their support.

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