By Sue Favor
SOUTH LOS ANGELES — The city of Los Angeles is guaranteeing access to quality sports programming to all youth in the city through the new PlayLA program, launched earlier this month.
The initiative will put classes and clinics for tennis, golf, basketball, soccer, judo, aquatics and more into the city’s parks and recreation centers. Other sports being explored for the program, which will run through the end of the current school year, include sitting volleyball, goalball, para equestrian, para surfing and wheelchair basketball.
PlayLA also will offer adaptive sports programs for children with physical disabilities – a first for the city, to make sure sports and recreation is accessible to all.
The LA28 Olympic and Paralympic Games and the International Olympic Committee invested $9.6 million to create PlayLA, which is designed to make sports more available to kids across Los Angeles, ahead of the Olympic Games scheduled here in 2028. The initiative is the largest commitment to youth sport development in the state.
PlayLA will ensure every child ages 5-17 has an opportunity to participate in low-cost, or no-cost, quality sports programming in their neighborhood. Mayor Eric Garcetti said the endeavor couldn’t be more important.
“We’re delivering affordable access to youth sports programs across our city right now, and we know how transformative that opportunity can be, especially for low-income families,” he said. “I am grateful to LA28, the IOC and all of the partners that have helped make this incredible program possible, and I can’t wait to get out there and see our young athletes in action.”
City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson hailed the program as a win for his 8th District.
“An investment in neighborhood parks is an investment in our families and community. The benefits are priceless,” he said. “Outdoor spaces that are responsive to the needs of the neighborhood, and offer programming and activities that residents want become the heartbeat of community life.
“Council District 8 has made it a practice to invest in programming to keep everyone active and invested in our parks. LA28’s contribution is a welcome and golden opportunity for thousands of children across Los Angeles to participate on sports teams.”
City officials are hopeful that instruction and participation in a variety of sports will encourage lifelong physical activity habits.
“The launch of PlayLA is a huge accomplishment for L.A. Parks and for the scores of city youth who will become members of the best, all-inclusive multi-sports program to equip them for a lifetime of activity, connection, and positive experiences,” said Mike Shull, general manager of city’s Recreation and Parks Department.
“The LA28 Olympic and Paralympic Organization has provided (the program) to expand access to sports for youth and families with the greatest need and to create possibilities for a brighter future in advance of the LA28 Games.”
PlayLA comes at a time that the city has seen its greatest uptick in crime in more than a decade — especially in South Los Angeles. which includes the 8th and 9th Council District. Police said the crime surge began during the pandemic lockdown and continues, with young people sometimes involved. Sports activities have long been regarded as a healthy outlet.
“Access to sports at a young age made me who I am,” said LA28 Chief Athlete Officer and five-time Olympic medalist Janet Evans. “Sports are so important for our individual and collective physical and mental health. It doesn’t matter whether you’re competing for a gold medal or playing with your best friends — sport teaches us lessons we carry with us for life. And that should be available to everyone.”
Three years ago, Garcetti launched a similar program called SwimLA, designed to increase access for youth to learn how to swim.
Registration for PlayLA is open at LAParks.org/PlayLA, or via the new LA Parks mobile app. The cost of registration and participation is $10 per person.
Sue Favor is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers, who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at email@example.com.