If anyone understands how much sports matter, it's someone who has played the game at the highest level. But like everyone else, they had to start somewhere. And for former Steelers running back Jerome Bettis his start came in Detroit, bowling, playing baseball and then football as a kid.
That is why Bettis, along with linebacker Jarvis Jones, was thrilled to be a part of DICKS's Sporting Goods Foundation Sports Matter program in the Pittsburgh area, a program that helps fund local sports organizations who have been impacted by budget cuts to sports programs.
"I wouldn't be here today if sports didn't matter," said Bettis. "I am glad I could lend my support because it's so important. We have to keep these programs funded and give these kids an opportunity to participate in sports. It's so important to a child's development. The life lessons I have learned playing football have taken me through life. If I can impress upon these kids to understand this is a great opportunity for you. You may not all be superstar athletes, but you will get so much out of playing team sports."
Sports Matter has funded more than 180 youth athletic teams from across the country, raising money through donations and then the DICK's Foundation matching the donations up to $2 million. Bettis and Jones helped to present donations to three local organizations – Pittsburgh City Soccer Club, the Jubilee Jaguars (basketball) and the Imani Saints (football).
"We realized that billions of dollars have been cut from sports funding over the past few years," said Ryan Eckel, Vice President of Brand Marketing. "This was news to us so we said we have to do something about it. We created a program where teams can apply and raise money and we would match it."
Not only did the three teams get the donations that will keep their programs afloat, but also had the opportunity to go through drills with Bettis and Jones.
"Sports are a big part of kid's lives every day, going out and playing football in the yard or basketball," said Jones. "Sports do a lot of for individuals to learn how to work with a team, with others. Being a part of this and seeing the kids, the smiles and the opportunity that allows them to keep playing this game is a blessing."