The LA84 Foundation strives to enforces the concept of 'Play Equity' throughout Southern California and beyond. (Photo by Noor Aldayeh/LA Times HS Insider)
South Torrance High School

‘Play Equity’ drives Renata Simril and the LA84 Foundation

In their newest initiative, the LA84 Foundation is focusing on “closing the play equity gap,” and providing sports programs for demographics that don’t regularly have access to them. In an interview with President and CEO Renata Simril, HS Insider got to learn more about what this means.

The LA84 Foundation has maintained a successful youth development program for 33 years, and recently have been trying to expand the implementation of this development.

“We know that [our] program works,” Simril said. “So how can we scale it to communities who don’t have sports programs?”

In terms of why sports in particular are seen as important for young adults, Simril emphasized the correlation seen between student athletes and overall academic success.

“We have data that shows that 92 percent of LAUSD athletes graduate from high school,” she said. “We have found that sport is an effective mode of engagement to really help kids be successful, not just on the field, but off the field as well”

The term “play equity” was coined by Simril herself, and the foundation believes that it is a social justice issue.

“Most social justice issues start at the ground level, and they’re initiated by lack of opportunity,” Simril said. “As I looked at the work we have done over the years… I was struck by the fact that a lot of people didn’t understand or realize that in this youth sports landscape, that there are millions of kids who don’t have an opportunity to play.”

The LA84 Foundation hopes to bridge this gap by talking to school administrators, faculty, and advisors in underprivileged communities about the importance of sports for their students. Additionally, they will be creating programs to specifically engage demographics that play sports less, such as young girls.

They work with young adults of the community through their SAMbassador program (SAM — named after their company mascot and an acronym for Students in Action), a student advisory board of athletes who provide feedback on company initiatives from the perspective of what they see in their own communities.

SaraJoy Salib, a previous SAMbassador and current intern for the LA84 Foundation said that without this program, she wouldn’t have met the individuals who have inspired her to pursue her dreams.

Wayne Wilson, who worked with the LA84 Foundation for over 30 years, said that the organization has evolved over the decades. Wilson, now retired, served as the Vice President of Education Services and other multiple roles throughout his time at the LA84 Foundation.

“We have moved from simply funding organizations to becoming a very outspoken advocate of leveling the playing field,” Wilson said.