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.