A young man’s drive to make youth sports affordable.
Elite Sports Academy (ESA) in Portland, Oregon, is a summer program that provides kids an opportunity to learn and engage in multiple sports while also providing a safe and positive environment at an affordable price. Andy White, the founder of ESA, has no apologies about using the word “Elite” in the name of his program. “I developed my program to offer low-income kids the same type of opportunities that kids of means have, and that is why I used the word “Elite.” I want them to feel special and not think that the program they attend is any less quality than the more expensive programs.”
Andy’s realization that not all kids are able to afford sports came at a young age. Growing up in Arizona, his childhood was ideal and full of fun and all that a middle class family can offer their child. “I loved sports, and I think I learned more from playing sports than I did at school!”
When his soccer team decided to attend a summer camp in San Diego, Andy learned that not all the kids planned to join.“My mom explained that it wasn’t a camp that all the families could afford; I decided if my friends weren’t going, I wasn’t going to go either.” I realized at that time that not all kids could do everything I was able to do, and that definitely has stuck with me throughout my life.”
“The goal is to reach as many families in need as we can!”
After graduation from Arizona State University, Andy worked in real estate and at a Nike retail store. He was offered a job at Nike’s headquarters in Portland as a community ambassador, coordinating volunteer and athlete events. Becoming even more aware of the gap between kids who can play and who can’t play sports due to the cost, Andy finally acted on his deep desire to give some kids the same opportunities that others have. In the spring of 2016, he launched his first ESA summer camp at Martin Luther King Jr Elementary, a title 1A school that serves children with risk factors such as poverty and high mobility.
ESA provides a full ten week program to kids that includes multiple sports and educational sessions on living a healthy lifestyle. The camp runs from 8-5 every day, and includes lunch and breakfast, at a low cost of $25.00 per week. The program averaged about 55 kids per day when it started, and grew quickly to 100 kids per day over the following years. Plans for a second camp were scrapped when the pandemic hit.
“We started hearing about cases in February/March, and soon knew that it wasn’t going to be possible to run an in-person camp. I really wanted to keep the kids engaged, so I started working on a virtual program, and we launched ESA Virtual in June.” Kids are able to login to ESA Virtual and watch pre-recorded videos and complete assignments that range from cooking to academic activities such as reading biographies about athletes. Points are earned when assignments are completed, and kids use the points to enter a weekly raffle for a gift card.
265 kids signed up for the program, many of them applying for an Every Kid Sports Pass to cover registration fees. Due to the success and positive feedback from ESA Virtual, Andy hopes to keep this as an integral part of summer programming for years to come. “In 2021, our hope is to have 200 underserved children in our in-person camps each day, and an additional 400 enrolled in our online program (for families who feel more comfortable with their children staying at home for COVID reasons, or for families who cannot make arrangements for their children to travel to a camp each day). The goal is to reach as many families in need as we can!”
Organizations such as Elite Sports Academy are great partners in our mission to make sure every kid has a chance to play. Thank you, Andy, for your commitment to making youth sports affordable, and helping us spread the word about the Every Kid Sports Pass to families in your community.
– The Every Kid Sports Team