Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) today announced that the company and its dealers will commit $1.3 million in 2012 to the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation USA, a charitable organization that supports projects in the U.S. to improve the lives of youth through the power of sports, to fund coaches in five U.S. cities: Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Miami and New Orleans.
The national initiative will focus on training and placing 250 coaches in sports-based youth development projects in underserved neighborhoods through Coach Across America, Laureus' delivery partner. The coaches will provide mentorship to 40,000 youth across 125 local communities.
The national kickoff and new collaboration begins in Chicago this afternoon with Laureus World Sports Academy Members Dr. Edwin Moses, a two time Olympic gold medalist, andMarcus Allen, Hall of Fame running back for the Los Angeles Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs, visiting Beyond the Ball, an organization that teaches youth about personal and social responsibility through sports.
"Mercedes-Benz USA and our dealer partners have a long tradition of supporting and giving back to our communities. When you combine that with MBUSA's extensive involvement in high-profile sports events, this is an undertaking that really makes sense for us and provides a real benefit to youth across the country," said Steve Cannon, president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA.
The Chicago initiative will focus on training and placing approximately 40 coaches in nine sports-based youth development projects in underserved neighborhoods. The projects include: Beyond the Ball, America SCORES Chicago, MetroSquash, Girls in the Game, Urban Initiatives, After-School All-Stars Chicago, Chicago Youth Boxing Club, Triple Threat and Near West Side CDC.
The remaining cities will launch later this year.
"We believe in the transformational power of sport as a tool for social good. Today's coaches go beyond the traditional sense of the term 'coach,'" said Moses, who also serves as the chairman of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation USA. "They are mentors, community organizers and mediators. Investing in proper training and offering support for these coaches is vital to sports-based youth development, especially as youth violence and obesity escalate and school-based programs continue to be decimated by budget cuts. Initiatives like this are essential in America to fill the gap."
In the last two years alone, $3.5 billion has been cut from school sports budgets, resulting in 16.5 million youth with little to no access to sports. With staggering childhood obesity statistics – an estimated 33 percent of American youth are overweight or obese by third grade – and a dangerous spike in youth violence – over March 17-18 in Chicago in what is believed to be gang-related incidents, 10 people were fatally shot, including a 6-year-old girl, and 40 others were wounded – solutions to combat these issues affecting youth are sorely needed.
Access to sports programs can be part of the answer. A recent GAO report confirmed that coaches play an important role in youth sports and development, yet quality ones are in short supply. By providing training for coaches and offering the infrastructure, best practices, expertise, delivery of programming and evaluation to support them as they are placed in community projects, Laureus Sport for Good Foundation USA is furthering its mission to use sport as the means to combat some of the toughest social challenges facing young people today.
Additionally, this initiative will provide employment opportunities and relevant experience in the sport for development sector for young adults in this tough economy. Many of the coaches recruited by Coach Across America will be college graduates from the local community.
"The positive influence coaches can have on today's underserved youth is undeniable," said James Kallusky, executive director of Coach Across America. "The generous support from both Mercedes-Benz USA and Laureus Sport for Good Foundation USA will allow Coach Across America to both broaden and deepen its impact by providing new coaches in these key cities."
About Laureus USA
Laureus Sport for Good Foundation USA (www.laureususa.com) is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit in the United States and a national foundation of Laureus, which comprises the global Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, the Laureus World Sports Academy, and the Laureus World Sports Awards. Collectively, these three elements form the essence of Laureus, harnessing the power of sport to promote social change and celebrating sporting excellence. Laureus celebrates the universal power of sport to bring people together as a force for good, passionately embodying the very spirit of sport – the pursuit of excellence, overcoming challenges, celebrating achievement and excellence, and winning against the odds.
About Mercedes-Benz USA
Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA), headquartered in Montvale, New Jersey, is responsible for the distribution, marketing and customer service for all Mercedes-Benz and Maybach products in the United States. MBUSA offers drivers the most diverse line-up in the luxury segment with 14 model lines ranging from the sporty C-Class to the flagship S-Class sedans and the SLS AMG supercar.
About Coach Across America
Coach Across America® (CAA; www.up2us.org) is the flagship program of Up2Us launched to provide its member organizations with the support needed to train and host highly effective coaches in sports and youth development. CAA's mission is to lead the United States in training and supporting expert sports-based youth development coaches in the nation's most under-resourced communities to promote health and nutrition, educational success, civic engagement, and positive personal and social development among youth.
 Up2Us. (2011) Going, Going, Gone: The Decline of Youth Sports.