ESPN Open Sports Space in Puerto Rico
- YMCA of San Juan celebrates the opening of courts that will be home to sustainable programs
teaching young people life-skills through sports
- Puerto Rican Olympic Gold Medalist Monica Puig helps opens the space during special event.
San Juan, Puerto Rico: At a special virtual event on Tuesday, August 17, ESPN and partners officially opened a newly transformed multifunctional sports space dedicated to the local community and its residents. The site is the tenth in the global Built to Play project series, led by ESPN. Partners on the project include the local community, award-winning sport for development organizations love.fútbol and Coaches Across Continents, the YMCA of San Juan, the Puerto Rico Tennis Association (PRTA) and United States Tennis Association (USTA).
Encompassing a revitalization and beautification of courts located at the YMCA San Juan, the space is designed to provide a safe place to play for the surrounding community and to offer ongoing programming using the power of sports to educate young people on key local and personal development issues.
Hosted by Marly Rivera, ESPN’s Major League Baseball National Reporter, the virtual media event and ribbon-cutting was attended by special guest speaker, professional tennis player and 2016 Olympic Gold Medalist, Monica Puig; Freddy Rolón, Vice President, ESPN Programming and Acquisitions; Rosa María Martínez, Executive Director, USTA Caribbean and PRTA; Mabel Román Padró, Executive Director, YMCA of San Juan; and, Mano Silva, Chief Operating Officer, love.fútbol.
“I have always believed that we do our best work when we can use the power of the ESPN brand to serve as an agent of change and bring positive impact to communities,” said Freddy Rolón. “We were pleased to bring ESPN Built to Play to the YMCA of San Juan and to collaborate with love.fútbol, Coaches Across Continents, the local community, the YMCA and the PRTA to provide a space in a community where there is a need and where it can truly make a difference. I know that it will continue to be a focal point for this community for many years to come; a place where kids can play sports, have fun, learn, and thrive.
The virtual event celebrated the site and featured remarks from the project partners on its social impact on the G8 community. It also included a special Q&A between Olympic champion Monica Puig and two children from the USTA Foundation’s local National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) chapter
Monica Puig said, “It is an honor to be part of this great initiative. I want to thank ESPN Built to Play, the YMCA of San Juan, the PRTA, and everyone involved for making a difference not only through the sport of tennis but through sports overall to help improve the health and wellness of our youth. It’s been very special for me to see the growth of interest in tennis in Puerto Rico ever since I won the gold medal, especially among kids. Sports, in general, are a great resource for kids to learn life skills, stay active and also deal with mental health issues, which are especially timely with the pandemic. Thanks to this project, the kids in the community will have this as a safe haven to go outside, stay active, explore their passions and talents, and simply be kids.”
By fostering a more inclusive community and ensuring quality programming, this space will serve as a hub for local youth to play, participate in skills-development programs, and grow. The project engages the G8 community and YMCA members through a variety of sports – including new opportunities to play and learn through tennis and football – and activities for different ages, but mainly targeting boys and girls aged 6 to 15-years-old. Parents will also be part of the process. Project manager love.fútbol led the transformation of the space and programming partner Coaches Across Continents virtually trained local expert coaches – including Fundación Golitos, which runs adapted sports program for children with disabilities – on its customized Purposeful Play curriculum. The programming will be used to facilitate powerful discussions with youth around leadership, mental well-being, healthy living, and social inclusion. From August 2021– August 2022, the coaches will deliver weekly sessions reaching at least 600 young people monthly in full compliance with COVID-19 restrictions.
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