What is Project Play? The Aspen Institute, known for drawing global thought leaders together in pursuit of a “free, just and equitable society,” is known more widely for something else. “Sport for All, Play for Life: A Playbook to Get Every Kid in the Game” was an output of AI’s Sports and Society committee and is still one of the Institute’s most widely read reports.
Over 250 leaders from American sport came together to create a handbook for building healthier communities through expanded youth sport opportunities.
What They Want
To create an inclusive year-round youth sport program focusing on the ‘human-powered sports of xc skiing, mountain biking, alpine ski touring, running, hiking and climbing.
To give kids the opportunity to build relationships with high quality coaches and mentors.
To create a program grounded in the notion of physical literacy, but that gives equal weight to social and emotional development.
In partnership with River Fund Maine, the Aspen Institute Project Play has deployed Project Play’s State of Play Youth Survey across Western Maine. The purpose of this survey to understand young people’s experiences and desires in terms of sport, play and physical activity. Together, we believe this data is essential to inform future decisions and investments in youth sports & recreation within your schools and across your community.
Project Play’s State of Play Youth Survey collects the following information from young people in grades 3-12:
Basic demographic information (grade, gender identity, race/ethnicity, physical disability status)
Current sport participation and interest in trying new sports
Reasons for current levels of participation (e.g. reasons to play and perceived barriers)
The role of adults in a young person’s sport experience
Our vision of creating an inclusive year-round youth sport program focusing on the ‘human-powered sports of xc skiing, mountain biking, alpine ski touring, running, hiking and climbing has become reality. Please join us in welcoming Maine West Project Play Program Director, Justin Fereshetian!
Justin lives in Sumner and grew up around coaching. His father Al Fereshetian was the head XC and Track & Field coach at Bates college for 26 years, and before that Justin's father coached at Appalachian State University and Kansas State University. Justin would often attend his father's meets as he was growing up and also was fortunate enough to have many excellent coaches when he was a young athlete and eventually it became clear that this was going to be a career path that he would desire to pursue for himself. Today, Justin has been coaching in some capacity ever since he graduated college in 2013 in XC running, track, ultimate frisbee, and most prominently Nordic skiing. Justin loves to compete. He has extensive experience in running and Nordic skiing throughout high school and college and has additional experience with disc golf, ultimate frisbee, mountain biking, and whitewater paddling. While he enjoys making steps to improve personally as an athlete, he has found it much more rewarding to help younger athletes make improvements for themselves that make them a more confident and complete athlete and individual. Justin looks to draw on his experiences as an athlete, coach, and physical education major and teacher to help youth in the Bethel area and beyond to foster and share that same passion for outdoor recreation that he has.
Working with several community partners, Maine West Project Play aims to give kids the opportunity to build relationships with high quality coaches and mentors, and provide programming grounded in the notion of physical literacy, but that gives equal weight to social and emotional development.
Welcome, Justin, and thank you to you, our donors, for making exciting program expansions like these possible!
Leadership & Mentorship
Self assessment will be a central tool used by young athletes. Kids in the program will be familiarized with the benchmarks for physical, emotional and social development. Participants will take ownership in assessing their progress and will have the opportunity to communicate their needs and hopes for future progress through routine goal-setting.
A core group of coaches will take ownership in creating, developing and implementing a youth sports program that focuses on the physical, emotional and social needs of youth living in the community. This exercise alone will be an educational process for the adults involved, heightening attention on the true needs of kids at this moment.
Older athletes will serve as mentors to younger athletes and thereby develop leadership skills. Adults involved in the program will become more physically active and gain wider access to endurance based outdoor activities.
The ultimate goal is to be a part of developing a more resilient community. The most direct beneficiaries of the programming will be the youth involved and their families. But our community will be stronger by having a new generation of leaders.