Leading up to Super Bowl Sunday, Maurice Jones, LISC’s CEO and president, reflects on the parallels between our 20-year partnership with the NFL Foundation and his own experiences playing high school football. The 350 fields we’ve created with the NFL Grassroots Program make clear that the value of playing fields extends well beyond the importance of physical fitness: they provide space for youth development, bring communities together, and nurture transformative relationships.
Super Bowl week always reminds me of my high school football experiences. Playing quarterback was one of the highlights of my teenage years. Not surprisingly, as the seasons have passed, I’ve forgotten most games and plays.
But special moments still linger. One occurred late in the fourth quarter of a very competitive game. It was third down and a few yards, and we needed to get the first down to effectively clinch the game. In a surprise move, during a time out, my coach instructed me to run the ball. The defense anticipated that I would hand off to a running back. Instead, I pretended to do that, and, as the defense responded to that fake, I ran as fast I could toward the first down marker on the sideline. Just as I crossed that spot I stepped out of bounds. Against the rules, someone aggressively tackled me as I came to a stop.
Within a matter of seconds, it seemed like every member of my offense was rushing toward me, separating the tackler from me, and helping me to my feet. My teammates literally escorted me back onto the field. One of them shouted, “We got your back.”
For 20 years, LISC has collaborated with the NFL Foundation to overhaul and build more than 350 high quality playing fields in 100 communities across the country, including 10 in Minnesota, where the Super Bowl is being played. What’s more, both the Eagles and the Patriots have helped us create 23 fields in their home cities. You can learn more about our work with the NFL Foundation by reading this article in Next City.
We are also expanding our youth development work by partnering with ESPN to refurbish and build basketball courts in cities and towns. And with Under Armour, we will be renovating school athletic and afterschool facilities in underinvested places.
Why do we do this work?
Because we want every child--and for that matter, every adult--in every American community to have the opportunity to experience the fun and rewards of playing games and sports in quality places in their zip codes. These opportunities teach teamwork, discipline, fair play and the importance of physical fitness. Perhaps most powerfully, taking part in games and sports nurtures one of the most important catalysts for growth and development: transformative relationships.
My teammates and I became committed to each other’s wellbeing as a result of our collective football experiences. These relationships, however, went beyond the gridiron, into the classroom and into our community. Every city and town in America can build with assets like these.
Enjoy the Super Bowl!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Maurice Jones, President & CEO, LISC
Prior to joining LISC, Maurice was the Secretary of Commerce for the Commonwealth of Virginia, where he managed 13 state agencies focused on the economic needs in his native state. Before that, he was second in command at the U.S. Dept. of HUD, serving as deputy secretary in charge of operations. He has also been Commissioner of Virginia’s Dept. of Social Services and Deputy Chief of Staff to then-Gov. Mark Warner. At the U.S. Treasury Dept. during the Clinton Administration, he managed the CDFI fund. His private sector experience includes top positions at the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, a Richmond law firm and a private philanthropy investing in community-based efforts to benefit children in Washington, D.C.