News & Press Releases


Elementary schools are in a great position to bring afterschool programming that breaks the inequities of youth sports, while also increasing academic achievement for our youth.

As we navigate the murky waters of distance education across the nation, many children have lost what they needed most: The opportunity to stay active playing team sports with friends and having a positive community that supports their growth and development. Many children have seen these opportunities taken away due to safety concerns of the current health crisis. However, as our nation moves towards reopening schools and “catching students up” academically, the need for extracurricular and sports opportunities will be critical for our most disadvantaged youth.


“This sports program changed my child’s life,” are reactions and testimonies often heard said from parents to our program staff. The Greater Youth Sports Association (GYSA) provides elementary schools a positive youth development afterschool program that leverages sports to teach every child the importance of education, social emotional skills and character. While the kids love the aspect of being able to engage in school-based sports—wearing uniforms and having fun with their friends—they’re also developing and growing their critical skills that last a lifetime.

In a year where sports were cancelled, GYSA created a virtual sports program that provided every child a ball and a plan to stay active and play the sport they love, even from home. Keeping sports accessible for all children is the number one goal. GYSA is very intentional in its program curriculum, focusing on developing the life skills that translate to academic and future success.


Regular participation in physical activity and higher levels of physical fitness have been linked to improved academic performance. Coming off a year (and possibly more) of distance education with sedentary life changes at an early age could lead to devastating health issues. Increases in screen time and decreases in daily physical activity levels could cause more children to fall into overweight/obese categories. Prior to the pandemic, one in three kids in the U.S. were overweight or obese. Because children spend so much time at school, schools have a unique opportunity to help children become healthier and more active. GYSA’s afterschool sports program allows children to receive up to 240 more minutes of physical activity during the school week.


Research has demonstrated the significant role of SEL in promoting healthy student development and academic achievement. The GYSA sports program delivers weekly SEL lessons to participating students focusing on areas such as self-management, responsible decision-making, self-awareness and relationship skills. These lessons are taught during hands-on lessons and experienced in a team sport environment with the coach as the mentor. Students not only learn sports skills but also the more important life skills that set a foundation for academic achievement.

With programming operating in two different states and positive year over year growth, GYSA is on pace to achieving its grand goal of impacting 100,000 children each year. The need for accessible sport opportunities have never been greater. 70% of low-income children never play a sport, primarily due to the costs. Accessibility has become a serious issue impacting equity in youth sports, and the benefits are too great to let these inequities continue. More school-based solutions need to be provided at the elementary level to ensure a successful future for our youth. Sports have a unique ability to engage and develop our children into healthy productive leaders of tomorrow.


Devonte Woodson M.Ed., is a graduate of Washington State University and Founder of Greater Youth Sports Association. Woodson is also an NAA Executive member and a 2021 NAA Next Generation of Afterschool Leaders Honoree.

News & Press Releases

GYSA Selected by GlobalGiving As Red Backpack Fund Recipient,…

August 17, 2020 — GlobalGiving announced today that Greater Youth Sports Association has been selected to receive a $5,000 COVID-19 relief and recovery grant from The Red Backpack Fund, an opportunity for small businesses and nonprofits made possible by The Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation.

“My hope is that this gift will help alleviate some of the pressures caused by this horrible pandemic. Twenty years ago, I started Spanx with $5,000 in savings, and I see this as a time to pay it forward. Small business is the backbone of our culture. I know what it’s like to be a small business owner, and I want to provide some relief to these entrepreneurs during this time,” said Spanx Founder Sara Blakely.

The Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation donated $5 million to support female entrepreneurs in the wake of COVID-19 and teamed up with GlobalGiving to establish The Red Backpack Fund.

Thousands of business owners and nonprofit founders from across the United States and its territories applied to receive a grant from The Red Backpack Fund to combat economic hardship caused by COVID-19. Greater Youth Sports Association was selected for the grant based on its outstanding application, its urgent need for COVID-19 relief, and its demonstrated capacity to overcome COVID-19 setbacks.

GlobalGiving, a 501(c)(3) organization with nearly two decades of grantmaking experience, will award grants to at least 1,000 women entrepreneurs from now through September 2020 through The Red Backpack Fund. GlobalGiving has assembled a 100% women-led team to lead the grantee selection process. The team includes grant specialists, social workers, female entrepreneurs, analysts, and monitoring and evaluation experts.

“We’re proud to announce the grantees of The Red Backpack Fund. They have successfully undergone GlobalGiving’s rigorous vetting process, and we believe this grant will help them continue to thrive, despite the shifting economic circumstances brought on by this crisis,” said GlobalGiving CEO Alix Guerrier. “The world needs more women-led organizations who are a key force in overcoming COVID-19 and establishing a better normal.”

Learn more about The Red Backpack Fund at www.globalgiving.org/redbackpackfund.

“Receiving this grant is such an awesome honor”, said Annalise Lullo, GYSA Co-Founder. “GYSA, which is a majority female run organization, works tirelessly to support at-risk children in our community through after-school sports programming and character development. This grant will allow our program to thrive and rise despite the hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you GlobalGiving and Sara Blakely for your generosity and stewardship!”

About Greater Youth Sports Association
GYSA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based out of Southern Nevada. GYSA believes that sports can build success in the lives of our youth. Sadly, more than 70% of low-income children do not participate in organized sports, often due to cost. GYSA created their signature program, the School Sports SolutionSM to combat this issue. Providing after-school sports programming to at-risk, low-income children is just one facet of the program, however. GYSA also provides enrolled children with character development workshops, weekly social emotional lessons and reading mentorship.

GYSA aims to transform the lives of low-income children by providing them with affordable programming that improves their physical and mental health and lays the foundation for a successful future.

About The Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation
Since its inception in 2006, the Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation has donated millions to charities around the world, focusing on charities that empower underserved women and girls. In 2013, Sara Blakely became the first self-made, female billionaire to sign the Giving Pledge, created by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett, promising to give at least half her wealth to charity. In 2020, Sara and the Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation launched the Red Backpack Fund in partnership with GlobalGiving. Back by Sara Blakely, the $5 million fund supports the recovery and revitalization of female-owned businesses in the U.S. impacted by the coronavirus crisis. While many of the world’s resources are being depleted, one is waiting to be unleashed: Women. The Spanx by Sara Blakely Foundation is on a mission to support women and help them SOAR through education, entrepreneurship and the arts. Learn more at www.spanxfoundation.com.

About GlobalGiving
GlobalGiving is a 501(c)(3) registered nonprofit that makes it safe and easy to support important causes around the world. When a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic strikes, GlobalGiving quickly delivers funds to vetted organizations that are best-suited to lead immediate and long-term relief and recovery. As part of its mission to accelerate community-led change, GlobalGiving provides tools, training, and support to help nonprofits, donors, and companies increase their impact and make the world a better place. Learn more at www.globalgiving.org.

News & Press Releases

GYSA Recognized by President’s Council on Sports, Fitness &…

Local Nevada Non-Profit, Greater Youth Sports Association becomes an NYSS Champion.

(Las Vegas, NV) – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is pleased to recognize Greater Youth Sports Association (GYSA) as one of the first organizations to join the National Youth Sports Strategy (NYSS) Champion program. HHS released the NYSS in September 2019 in response to Presidential Executive Order 13824, which called for a national strategy to increase youth sports participation. The NYSS is the first Federal roadmap with actionable strategies to increase participation in youth sports, increase awareness of the benefits of youth sports participation, monitor and evaluate youth sports participation, and recruit and engage volunteers in youth sports programming.

NYSS aims to unite U.S. youth sports culture around a shared vision: that one day all youth will have the opportunity, motivation, and access to play sports — regardless of their race, ethnicity, sex, ability, or ZIP code. NYSS Champions represent organizations that are working towards achieving this vision.

As an NYSS Champion, GYSA has demonstrated their organization’s support of youth sports and commitment to the NYSS vision. GYSA will be recognized along with other NYSS Champions on health.gov as part of a growing network of organizations partnering with HHS to improve the youth sports landscape in America.

“We know children who obtain regular physical activity gain important physical and mental health benefits, which are more important than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic,” explains ADM Brett Giroir, M.D., Assistant Secretary for Health at HHS. “I’m thrilled to acknowledge the work of the NYSS Champions who are furthering the mission of the NYSS and helping to foster a lifelong love of sports and physical activity for our Nation’s youth.”

“GYSA is ecstatic to be one of the first organizations to join the NYSS Champions platform”, said Annalise Lullo, Co-Founder of GYSA. “At GYSA we believe sports can build success in the lives of our children by improving both their mental and physical health. We also believe that all children deserve access to sports and that cost should never be the reason a child does not participate. Therefore, it is with excitement that we work with HHS to achieve this new vision for youth sports.”

About Greater Youth Sports Association

GYSA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based out of Southern Nevada. GYSA believes that sports can build success in the lives of our youth. Sadly, more than 70% of low-income children do not participate in organized sports, often due to cost. GYSA created their signature program, the School Sports SolutionSM to combat this issue. Providing after-school sports programming to at-risk, low-income children is just one facet of the program, however. GYSA also provides enrolled children with character development workshops, weekly social emotional lessons and reading mentorship.

GYSA aims to transform the lives of low-income children by providing them with affordable programming that improves their physical and mental health and lays the foundation for a successful future.

About the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

The President’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition (PCSFN) is a Federal Advisory Committee run by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP) and plays a vital role in keeping the Nation healthy. PCSFN and ODPHP accomplish this by setting national health goals and objectives and supporting programs, services, and education activities that improve the health of all Americans. PCSFN and ODPHP are part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. To learn more about ODPHP visit health.gov.

The NYSS Champion is a service mark of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Used with permission. Participation by GYSA does not imply endorsement by HHS/ODPHP.

News & Press Releases

Raider Cody Podcast and Raider Nation Raised More Than…

On June 8th, Raider Cody and Kenny King Jr., creators of the Raider Cody Podcast, announced that they were raising funds for local Las Vegas non-profit, Greater Youth Sports Association (GYSA). The money raised will go to providing after-schools sports programming, reading mentorship and character development for at-risk elementary age children in Southern Nevada.

Raider Cody, who is viewed as a premier Raiders talk host and voice of Raiders fans, had been looking for a way to support the new Raiders community in Las Vegas, when he came across GYSA. After speaking with GYSA Co-Founder, Devonte Woodson, they decided to aim to raise $5,000 which would provide programming to one partner school and approximately 100 children.

Raider Nation wasted no time in supporting the cause and within several days had raised nearly $1,500. The goal of hitting $5,000 seemed likely considering the fundraiser was to run until July 4th (former Raiders Owner, Al Davis’ birthday). And reach the goal they did. Nearly two weeks before the end of the fundraiser, Cody announced that fans had raised $20,000! This will impact four partner schools and more than 400 at-risk children.  

Nearly two weeks before the end of the fundraiser, Cody announced that fans had raised $20,000!

This Friday, July 3rd, 2020 at 10 a.m. the Raider Cody podcast will be live in Las Vegas at Stage Door Casino, where they will present GYSA with the funds raised. The event is open to the public and will be a great way to introduce the Las Vegas community to the strength of Raider Nation.

WHAT: Live Raider Cody Podcast and Check Presentation to GYSA

WHERE: Stage Door Casino, 4000 Linq Ln, Las Vegas, NV 89109

WHEN: 10:00 a.m.

Donations can still be made at: www.raidercody.com/greateryouth 


Youth Sports Healing Trauma and Other Coping Techniques

2020 has been a challenging year to say the least. From the COVID-19 pandemic and all the implications that came with it, to the ongoing systemic racism that plagues our nation, these challenging times have been difficult for many to navigate and hardly improve the mental health of our communities. In fact, some researchers warn that the coronavirus pandemic alone could leave long-lasting emotional trauma (cnbc.com).

The state of our country today certainly could induce trauma, but the U.S. is no stranger to it. An estimated 70% of adults in the U.S. have experienced at least one traumatic event in their lifetime and more than two-thirds of children report one traumatic event prior to the age of 16. Those at even higher risk for experiencing trauma and repeated trauma are those at an economic disadvantage. In fact, the American Psychology Association stated that exposure to trauma is directly related to socioeconomic standing.

Two-thirds of children report one traumatic event prior to the age of 16.

At Greater Youth Sports Association (GYSA) our mission is to support children, particularly those in low-income communities. But how do we provide the additional support needed given all these children are up against. Trauma, whether it comes from within the home or at larger scales, carries many implications, especially for children. Let’s look at these now.

The Implications of Trauma

Anyone who has studied the Vietnam war knows how dangerous the implications of trauma can be. PTSD is one of the most talked about disorders related to trauma, but hand to hand combat is just one of the many ways a person can experience it. Trauma comes in many forms, including abuse, neglect, natural disasters, death, illness, to name a few and can have a multitude of impacts on mental and physical health. Some common symptoms include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Low Self-Esteem
  • Chronic Pain
  • Lack of Self Respect
  • Addiction
  • Hormone Imbalance
  • Muscle Tension
  • Immune Dysfunction / Chronic Inflammation
  • Cardiovascular Disease

These are just a few of the symptoms of trauma that many children and adults suffer from today.

Childhood trauma is all too common, particularly in low-income households. Keep in mind that trauma literally reprograms and rewires the brain. This is why childhood trauma doesn’t simply fade over time, and often affects a child’s biological, cognitive and physical development and increases risk of lifelong emotional and physical problems.

Solutions to Trauma

But, there is good news when it comes to trauma. The brain’s wiring is not set in stone! There are steps that can be taking to rewire the brain and overcome trauma and many that can be implemented without professional intervention. Please note, in cases of severe trauma it is best to engage with a healthcare professional.

Sports as a Solution

GYSA Co-Founder, Devonte Woodson, and 2020 Basketball Particpant

At GYSA we believe that sports can build success on many levels. In addition to the obvious benefits such as improved physical activity levels, sportsmanship and discipline, sports when implemented correctly can also have many mental health benefits. In fact, JAMA Pediatrics published a study showing that people who had experienced traumatic events as children had improved mental health outcomes as adults if they participated in team sports during their adolescence.

Sports can teach many life lessons including resilience, grit and determination. Team sports also allow for improved self-esteem and better social interactions. GYSA conveys these important lessons during practices and games by using Social Emotional Learning (SEL) techniques.

Social Emotional Learning

SEL is the process through which children learn about and manage their emotions, set positive goals, show empathy for others, establish positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.

SEL is important when dealing with trauma because it places strong emphasis on evaluating and controlling emotion. It allows children to look inward and understand their feelings. A common trait in trauma is to bury pain when it occurs, but SEL encourages the opposite. SEL also places major emphasis on establishing and maintaining positive relationships. Relationships can have a major influence on mental health. If surrounded by a strong support system, children are able to handle traumatic situations with more confidence and hopefully avoid long-lasting effects.

The reason GYSA chose to convey these important techniques through sports is because we wanted children to really feel and relate to the message. Nelson Mandela once said, “[Sport] speaks to youth in a language they understand”. We are working to share these lessons in a language our children can easily understand in the hopes that they will continue to use them as they learn and grow.  


We believe sports have the power to impact and improve the lives of at-risk children across the country, however there are many ways to cope with trauma and maintain happiness. Martin Seligman, the Father of Positive Psychology, came up with a model that delineates what we need to achieve happiness. Striving to integrate the elements of this model into daily life and teaching it to children at a young age may help in reversing the impacts of trauma. The PERMA model is as follows:

  • Positive Emotion

This may seem obvious, but positive emotion is powerful when it comes to overcoming trauma and being truly happy. Positive emotion is developed out of optimism, positivity, and enjoyment. Some techniques that can be used to induce positive emotion include participating in hobbies or activities that bring real enjoyment! This might be participating in a sport, going hiking, etc. Find what truly brings you joy and practice it. The key here is not to confuse true joy with pleasure. Another helpful activity for increasing positive emotion, is keeping a gratitude journal. Each day write down all the things you are grateful for. Over time your brain will start to more easily recognize the good things in your life over the bad.

  • Engagement

Engagement involves finding activities that demand our full attention. This is that activity that makes “Time Fly” and that puts you in a state of flow, completely and totally focused on that one thing and oblivious to the outside world. This involves trying new things, maybe it’s playing sports, dancing, singing, playing an instrument, etc. Explore different things and don’t stop until you find that thing that you truly love.

  • Relationships

Humans need love and social interaction. We are social beings and cannot function at a high level without human connection. Make time to spend with the people who mean the most. Also, make sure that the people you do spend the most time with align with the happiness you want in your life.

  • Meaning

Having a purpose in life is necessary for happiness! Unfortunately, our world puts a lot of stock in material wealth, but money is often not the gateway to happiness. Finding your purpose may take time, exploration and experimentation. Ask yourself important questions such as, what would I want to do each day if money were not a factor? How do I wish to give back to my community? What brings me joy? By looking inward and asking deep questions your purpose will start to reveal itself.

  • Accomplishments

To truly achieve happiness, it is important to set goals and be ambitious. There is a sense of pride and satisfaction that comes along with achieving our goals. Start by setting small goals and appreciating the small wins as you achieve them. As you grow and flourish in these small goals you will be able to start expanding your goals and dreaming / achieving big.

Press On

The world continues to challenge us in new and unprecedented ways, but it is our job as members of society to offer solutions to these challenges. Mental health is not a conversation to be passed over, especially in such troubling times. We must press on and actively work to improve as individuals and in turn we will be able to improve our communities.

At GYSA we believe sports can heal, teach and prepare our youth for adulthood. This is our solution. This our mission. When we stand together, we all win!


The Importance of After-School Programming in Times of Recession

The many implications of the COVID-19 pandemic have been widely felt around the world. In addition to the lives that have been lost, we have also seen and felt the impact the shutdown and the economic downturn have had on mental and physical health. Unfortunately, many experts are predicting that the outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic will be the worst economic recession in our lifetime (nytimes.com).

Some of those most deeply affected by a recession of this magnitude will be those living at or below the low-income threshold. For low-income, at-risk youth across the country the implications of COVID-19 are felt at a deep level. In addition to the loss of jobs and resources by their parents/guardians the simultaneous closing of schools creates problems more urgent than a simple interruption of their education, particularly in areas of health and social services.

Those most deeply affected by a recession of this magnitude will be those living at or below the low-income threshold.

It has been generally concluded that there is an undeniable relationship between health outcomes, socioeconomic status and poverty (healthypeople.gov). Low-income people are more likely to suffer from mental health problems and greater health risks. In the County Health Rankings, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation cites that 20% of children living in Las Vegas are living in poverty. These children, who are already more inclined to suffer from poor health, will feel increased pressure now more than ever due to the looming recession. So, in what ways can these children be supported during these challenging times?

While parents and guardians are also struggling with the impacts of COVID-19, our schools are uniquely positioned to offer support to underserved families, many of whom depend on school resources for more than just educational purposes. Schools are not immune to the effects of the recession however, and when budgets are tightened often resort to cutting social and health related services to put emphasis on academic improvements.

However, when making tough decisions due to budget it is crucial that schools keep programs and services that support Whole Child growth, particularly in times of struggle. A Whole Child Approach ensures that children are healthy, safe, engaged and supported. Such programs blend academics, social-emotional development, and physical activity, helping children maintain both physical and mental health.  

A Whole Child Approach ensures that children are healthy, safe, engaged and supported. Such programs blend academics, social-emotional development, and physical activity, helping children maintain both physical and mental health.  

There are many programs and services that offer these important levels of support, including Greater Youth Sports Association (GYSA). When GYSA first started, the number one goal of the program was to provide services to those who are most underserved. The GYSA School Sports Solution program provides affordable, school-based sports opportunities to Title 1 elementary schools in Southern Nevada and uses the Whole Child Approach by blending Sports, SEL, Character Development and Reading Mentorship.

GYSA and programs like it will be extremely important to at-risk youth moving forward. In the individual case of GYSA, school-based sports have been shown to not only have physical health benefits, but also support classroom learning and mental health. Additionally, by providing low-cost opportunities directly at partner schools, some pressure is taken off parents/guardians who are likely already struggling due to impacts of the current state of affairs across the nation.