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The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Legacy Funds at the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan is now accepting youth sports grant applications. Learn More.
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When it comes to our childen’s future, we’re not playing any games.

Project Play: Southeast Michigan is driven and funded by the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation’s Youth Sports & Recreation focus area in partnership with the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan and the Aspen Institute Sports & Society Program. Project Play: Southeast Michigan serves seven counties in the region: Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw, St. Clair, Monroe and Livingston.

Our Mission

Research has shown that active children go on to live happier, healthier and more successful lives. Project Play: Southeast Michigan envisions a community in which all children have the opportunity to be active through sports—and to live their best lives.

Every child—regardless of location, income or ability—should have access to fun and fulfilling physical activities. Our goal? For every child in America to have the ability, confidence and desire to be physically active for life.

Our Framework

Project Play: Southeast Michigan is modeled after Project Play’s “Eight Plays.” These are eight strategies identified by the Aspen Institute to help children become—and stay—physically active through sports.

Nine out of ten kids say “fun” is the main reason they want to play sports. So, there’s really only one question: “What sounds like fun?”

Children who spend more time in less structured activities are generally better equipped to set their own goals and take action on them. Those children also display higher levels of academic creativity as college students.

By providing more athletic opportunities to children, we can increase the probability they will find a sport they enjoy. That improves the chances they will continue to play sports throughout their lives.

Travel teams often add complexity and cost to sports. That doesn’t translate to success or satisfaction for the children who participate in them. The answer? In-town leagues.

Sprawling mega-sports complexes are all the rage in suburbia, but for most kids, a quality play space can also be a simple, cost-effective one. In urban areas, this could mean finding modest spaces to develop into mini-fields. These locations are easier to find and can be developed for as little as $15,000. A full-sized turf field can cost as much as $1 million.

We need to accept that kids are not miniature adults. They deserve an experience that recognizes their mental, emotional and physical stages of development, and builds on them. The goal should be to improve, not to win. Games and drills with small teams lead to more individual chances to touch the ball and build key skills. This allows children to develop in their sports as they develop in their bodies.

A coach can develop a lifelong athlete – or destroy a child’s love for sports.

  • In one study, only 5% of kids who played for a trained coach quit the next year. That number jumped to 26% for untrained coaches.

We must increase the number of credentialed coaches in the U.S. At minimum, they should be trained in:

  • Coaching philosophy on how to work with kids
  • Best practices in the areas of physical literacy and sport skills
  • Basic safety

Nine out of ten parents have safety concerns, especially regarding concussions. Youth sports should produce positive health outcomes. Therefore, policies and rule changes that eliminate or greatly reduce head contact for kids 12 & under should be introduced.

Our Challenge

For the initial rollout of Project Play: Southeast Michigan, we have chosen three “plays” to focus on:

  1. 1. Reintroduce Free Play
  2. 2. Encourage More Sport Sampling
  3. 3. Train All Coaches

Ready to change the lives of our youth for the better?

Follow us to get the latest on how to support, advocate and participate in Project Play: Southeast Michigan.

Project Play: Southeast Michigan
Project Play: Southeast Michigan
The Detroit Pistons Foundation Public Space Activation Grants are still open for applications through tomorrow, December 3rd for Detroit-based organizations looking to expand their programming, creative installations, sports leagues, and more! Don't miss your chance to apply!

Find more information on how your organization can apply at
Project Play: Southeast Michigan
Project Play: Southeast Michigan
What is it like for a child to navigate anxiety and encounter racism in sports? How can we create a more welcoming environment for more kids to talk openly about mental health, so they enjoy all of the benefits that come with playing sports and being physically active? Pro Basketball player Jeremy Lin 林書豪 discussed these topics during this year's Project Play Summit based on his experiences over a lifetime of playing on the court and working with sports psychologists.

Watch the full interview and hear more on this topic from NBA player Jeremy Lin at
Project Play: Southeast Michigan
Project Play: Southeast Michigan
Project Play: Southeast Michigan
Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program is transforming the way kids can get active, learn, and have fun after school. Thanks to support from the community, this incredible program has continued to grow and transform into an exciting hub for youth in Detroit. Check out the video below to learn more about what the Detroit Boxing Gym Youth Program has to offer and the team working to make it happen!
Project Play: Southeast Michigan
Project Play: Southeast Michigan
Project Play: Southeast Michigan
The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Legacy Funds at the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan is now accepting grant applications, but don't wait to apply! The deadline to get registered and submit your application is coming up on December 1st!

Through the Youth Sports Fund, the Wilson Legacy Funds will offer support for projects in southeast Michigan that bring high-quality sports programs to youth.

Learn more about this grant opportunity and apply today at

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Questions? Concerns? Ideas?

We want to hear from you. Email us at [email protected] or call us at 313.887.6111.

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