LeagueApps, a tech operating system for youth and local sports leaders, has hired former Laureus Sport for Good Foundation USA CEO and 1984 Olympic gold medalist Benita Fitzgerald Mosley as its Head of Community and Impact and first-ever president of FundPlay, the company’s initiative to increase youth sports participation in underserved markets. Fitzgerald Mosley will manage LeagueApps’ professional sports league partnerships and spearhead its efforts to cultivate an equitable youth sports industry that has been hit hard by COVID-19 cancellations.
“I call my gold medal the gift that keeps on giving. I don’t know that there’s an aspect of my life that hasn’t been positively impacted by sport, on and off the track,” Fitzgerald Mosley, a hurdler, told Sportico. “I want to pay that forward for young people from all walks of life—rural areas, the city, kids that are affluent and those that are under-resourced. They all deserve the opportunity to play sports. This platform that LeagueApps has, coupled with the community they’re building and the work they’re doing, enables more kids to do that. The pandemic has widened the gap between those who do and don’t have access, so it’s even more important now than it was six months ago to increase access.”
Since its 2011 launch, LeagueApps has established multiple arrangements with professional U.S. sports leagues (including the MLB and its Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program and urban youth academies, the NBA’s Jr. NBA initiatives and the NHL’s Learn to Play program) as well as 3,000-plus local partnerships. The company also has more than 50 partnerships with individual professional teams, including the Los Angeles Dodgers (LeagueApps was part of the Dodgers and R/GA’s inaugural Ventures Accelerator program in 2015), the Golden State Warriors and MLS’s Atlanta United FC and Colorado Rapids.
LeagueApps has also become a recognized supporter of several youth development initiatives, including FundPlay, which Fitzgerald Mosley will now run. Through FundPlay, LeagueApps commits 1% of its revenue to the initiative to provide software grants, technology, training, and support for youth sports.
Prior to taking her new position, Fitzgerald Mosley worked closely with LeagueApps as a member of the steering committee for its PLAY Sports Coalition, which the company co-founded in April to unite and support the fragmented youth sports industry—particularly groups involved in underserved areas—amid a pandemic that has decimated revenue streams. The coalition, one of Aspen Institute’s 2020 Project Play Champions, includes the YMCA, the Women’s Sports Foundation, USA Wrestling, US Lacrosse, USA Soccer Foundation, Special Olympics, Girls on the Run, and more than a dozen other community and national sports organizations, in addition to Laureus, on its advisory board.
“My mission was sort of already in the DNA of LeagueApps. I’m a mom, an athlete, a sports executive, and I understand from being a social entrepreneur in the sports space that sport indeed can be used as a tool for social change,” Fitzgerald Mosley said. Prior to her time leading Laureus’ American efforts, she also served stints with both the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and USA Track & Field. “There’s no better way to do that than to use technology, as we do every day. Technology is the vehicle that we use to scale movements, initiatives, businesses and organizations.”
Technology has become particularly central to youth sports during the pandemic, with such workarounds as online coaching and training programs popping up in the absence of in-person practices and events.
LeagueApps has also tasked Fitzgerald Mosley with advancing its NextUp platform, which started in 2019 as a conference for youth sports organizers and has since transitioned into a broader community platform.
The company’s investors include Major League Baseball, basketball Hall of Famer David Robinson’s Admiral Capital Group, PLL co-founder Paul Rabil and more. In 2019, the platform processed more than $1 billion in transactions for the first time. A strong start to 2020 was stalled by the pandemic, when LeagueApps partners’ revenues dropped nearly 90% this spring—normally peak time.
LeagueApps said it returned more than $17 million in its fee share this year to the local organizations that utilize its platform as cancelled seasons forced them to refund participants. Registration fees are a chief source of revenue within the youth sports industry. Much of LeagueApps’ revenue model is tied to the financial success of its local and youth sport partners, thereby tying the company’s fortunes to the industry’s wellbeing. As sports began returning to play, the LeagueApps platform set monthly transaction records in August and September, surpassing its original record mark set in February.
“We have a conviction that one of the ways to grow our business is to grow our impact. As a business, our interests are aligned with youth sports organizations around the country, and we especially saw that financially as we went through COVID,” said LeagueApps president Jeremy Goldberg. “More importantly, we recognize that the way we can really impact youth sports is through organizations and leaders. That alignment is, ultimately, why we believe change comes from the bottom up. Benita understands the power and opportunity youth sports organizations have to impact society and communities from the ground up and the top down with companies like ours playing a role.”
(This story has been updated to correct the name of the NBA’s Jr. NBA program and the timespan in which LeagueApps reached $1 billion in transactions.)