Published On: June 8th, 2023

June 8, 2023 | Cambridge, MA

The Cambridge Community Foundation has awarded $16,000 in grants to 18 summer sports programs designed for Cambridge youth who face barriers to access.

The grants are made possible through the Foundation’s Cambridge WINS initiative, created last year to support nonprofit programs and local coaches and sports enthusiasts across the city who are offering programs that engage and inspire youth in the community. Cambridge WINS was developed on the premise that sports even the playing field for all youth by improving their physical, mental, social, educational, and financial health — yet access to sports is not equitably shared. Sports also play an important role in strengthening a community’s social cohesion by providing common spaces for youth and their families to connect with one another.

Nationwide, youth from low-income households participate in sports 40 percent less often than their more affluent peers, reported The New York Times this spring. And in Cambridge, a 2022 Teen Health Survey at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School (CRLS), found that 61 percent of students face barriers to participating in after-school activities and less than 50 percent of students engage in physical activity five or more days per week. Inequities are exacerbated during the summer when school-year programs cease.

“People of all backgrounds come together, connect, and build community though sports. As our community’s foundation we believe in supporting programs that give all Cambridge youth and families access to enriching experiences,” said Geeta Pradhan, president of the Cambridge Community Foundation. “I want to thank Joe Bradlee and Matt Meyersohn, two Cambridge natives who helped us launch Cambridge WINS last year and extend the Foundation’s thanks to this newest round of Cambridge WINS coaches and mentors, athletes, and community leaders who are dedicated to providing enriching sports programs our city’s young people this summer.”

The 18 grant recipients reach neighborhoods across our city and include activities like softball and baseball, basketball, soccer, skating, football, cheerleading, martial arts, and swimming. Twelve of this summer’s grant recipients were also funded by WINS last year.

According to this year’s grant applicants, affordability is the biggest barrier they see to summer sports programs. Cambridge WINS grantees are allocating dollars for participant scholarships, to increase participation, and for uniforms, equipment, and supplies.

“Sports are an equity issue in our city”

Matt Meyersohn, a long-time volunteer basketball coach, received a grant this year to support a new nonprofit he’s developing called Cambridge Basketball Lab, a free program offering youth grades 6 through 12 a safe space at the Cambridge Community Center gym several nights a week and caring coach-mentors to help them improve their game.

“There’s a really big equity issue in our city, even just in terms of access to a gym: A lot of kids can’t find a hoop to go to and work on their game because our gyms are overbooked, often by adult leagues and ‘pay-to-play’ teams,” said Meyersohn. “Our youth are asking for this, and the Lab shows them that we’re listening, that their community is looking out for them. It’s all about creating a safe, reliable, accessible space for our youth to play and build relationships with caring adults.”

The Lab has a paid youth advisory board of eight CRLS students and has hired several former CRLS players to be Coach-Mentors, providing them with mentorship training and professional development.

Another grant recipient, Reece Freeman, started the Resilience Sports Foundation to help realize programming that he saw and heard was missing in Cambridge, like offseason girls’ basketball and clinics where girls could get introduced to the sport at a young age. A lifelong Cambridge resident and now CRLS Girls Basketball Head Coach, Freeman runs programs like Smaller Ballers and She Got Game to help a new generation of Cambridge kids access the kinds of opportunities and mentorships he had growing up.

“We’re invested in the community and want to see it do well; when our kids learn, succeed, become better leaders, that benefits all of us,” Freeman said. “Growing up in Cambridge, there was a lot of pride around sports, but it’s bigger than that. Young players can learn teamwork and discipline, gain confidence and resilience, make relationships and build community – and those things will translate to anything you do in life.”

The 2023 WINS grant recipients are:

Bridge Basketball: $500

Youth basketball clinics offered at low-cost.

Cambridge Basketball Lab: $1,000

Free of charge, tech-infused, skills development and mentorship program for Cambridge youth providing a place for Cambridge kids to practice their basketball skills under the nurturing tutelage of Coach-Mentors.

Cambridge Pop Warner Football and Cheerleading: $1,000

Youth football and cheerleading programs provide sports activities for youth at low to no cost.

Cambridge Youth Flag Football League: $1,000

Youth football program with scholarships available to all players.

Central Cambridge Youth Baseball: $1,000

Youth baseball program provides no-questions-asked scholarships for any player.

Cowemoki Summer Enrichment Program (Cambridge Community Center): $1,000

Youth summer day program offered at low/no cost with activities that include basketball, martial arts, soccer, and swimming.

CRLS Boys Basketball Summer League: $500

Summer playing opportunity for youth basketball players.

CRLS Boys Soccer Preseason: $1,000

Preseason clinic offered at no cost to even the playing field for players trying out in the fall.

CRLS Girls Soccer Preseason: $1,000

Preseason clinic offered at no cost to even the playing field for players trying out in the fall.

Eastern Mass Kingz: $500

Program bringing basketball coaching and life skills to youth.

Friday Night Hype: $1,000

A summer series of the middle school mentoring program that offers basketball, football, martial arts, soccer, and other outdoor activities.

North Cambridge Little League: $1,000

Beginners’ baseball program provides scholarships and comprehensive player recruitment.

Outback Summer Program (Agassiz Baldwin Community): $1,000

Youth summer day program that provides scholarships and offers fitness activities that include basketball, soccer, swimming, and other games.

Pink Sunday Youth Girls Flag Football: $1,000

Youth football program tailored for girls.

Resilience Sports Foundation: $1,000

Two youth programs: She Got Game for girls who have interest in practicing basketball while learning leadership skills, teamwork, work ethic, social media content and how to facilitate workshops and clinics; and Smaller Ballers for children ages 4-7 who are having their first basketball experience.

Roll Bounce 3: $500

Free community event including roller skating, food, and local vendors.

Scholars Before Athletes: $1,000

Youth basketball program creating inclusive spaces to learn skills and showcase talents to family, friends, and community.

St. Peter’s CYO Basketball Program: $1,000

Instructional youth basketball program open to players of all skill levels and youth from across the city.