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Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month: Exploring Youth Sports in Hispanic/Latinx Communities

09.27.2023

In Latinx communities, high costs of programs and equipment and a lack of cultural proficiency can hinder youth from participating in sports. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, only 50 percent of Hispanic youth participated in a sports team or sports lesson, compared to 66 percent of white youth.

Positive Coaching Alliance is committed to changing the culture of youth sports so that every child has access to a positive youth sports experience, one that is truly inclusive of their values and identities.

On September 19, we held a webinar called, “Exploring Youth Sports in Hispanic/Latinx Communities: Celebrating Heritage and Empowering the Future” to explore the deeply rooted values, challenges, successes, and aspirations that shape the lives of Hispanic/Latinx youth through the lens of sports. We also discussed solutions to make sports more accessible and welcoming for young players.

During the webinar, panelists Dr. Julián Alonso Restrepo, Assistant Professor at UMass Boston and CEO of Audible Football Corporation, and Lupe Flores, Director of Engagement & Impact at The Chicano Federation of San Diego County, opened the discussion with values represented in Latinx culture. 

“Latinx cultural values can be family, community, collectivism and interdependence and we bring those values to sports. Sports offer a space to build community and gain respect for one another, while refuting racial stereotypes about our culture,” shared Dr. Restrepo. 

The two panelists delved into how socio-economic status and lack of representation exclude Latinx communities from certain sports. “Sports are a microcosm of society and mirror the communities it surrounds. Do we have programs that are hiring bilingual coaches or multicultural mentors? Can we apply more culturally accessible programs?,” asked Dr. Restrepo

“We must continue to support organizations offering free, no-cost models. We should challenge pay-to-play sports organizations, which only offer a small number of scholarships to a select few players,” offered Lupe. 

In addition, exploring intersectionalities within Latinx communities offers an opportunity to support youth that might feel traditionally excluded from sports, such as girls, women or LGBTQ+ youth.  

“At The Chicano Federation, we do a lot of work to train coaches and staff to be inclusive of young women and LGBTQ+ communities. Hispanic communities are not a monolith. Female-identifying players and young girls might have grown up in a household where women are not encouraged to take on a sport, and we have to be mindful of that to break through these deeply held beliefs. That’s why successful initiatives have to offer intersectionality so we can come together as a whole,” shared Lupe. 

Panelists also discussed the importance of fighting against systemic barriers that attempt to discourage Latinx players from succeeding on and off the field. “In collegiate spaces where they are surrounded by whiteness, Latinx players are asked to accomplish things their other teammates don't have to accomplish or perform at levels others don’t. They might be viewed as token players and subconsciously embrace stereotypes instead of challenging the system that creates them,” said Dr. Julián.

Despite systemic barriers, Latinx youth show immense brilliance and resilience in and outside of the youth sports space. Simple solutions such as making resources language-accessible and offering transportation to tournaments can encourage Latinx youth representation in sports and help families feel supported throughout the process. By celebrating culture and identity, creating inclusive spaces, and increasing access and identifying core issues, we can ensure Latinx youth continue to progress in the sports world and beyond.  

Through our research-based programming, PCA will continue to do our part to increase representation in youth sports for communities of color and to ensure youth sports organizations and schools develop positive environments where youth can see their cultures reflected.

Special thanks to our panelists for offering their perspectives and for their work in empowering Latinx youth in sports, and a very Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!