Grant helps Next Level Sports support youth with education, football and mentorship

By Natasha Malone | Posted 3/6/2023

Ron Hayes Jr. has spent the last decade dedicating his time to bettering the lives of inner-city youth in the Indianapolis community.  

For the last ten years, Next Level Sports Youth League has served as a premier outlet for underprivileged kids in the area, assisting approximately 400 kids from low-income families per year. From mentorship, to education, to sport, Next Level Sports is a one-stop shop for many things, including flag and tackle ball. 

Despite its longevity and success, Next Level Sports has faced many obstacles along the way, including equipment upkeep, and a grant from USA Football offered the league an immediate fix to a long-term issue.  

“It [USA Football’s grant] has helped us with a lot of things,” Hayes Jr. said. “We play in a park, so a lot of our equipment is run down, such as the yard markers and dummy bags so that has been a big improvement. Getting new, up-to-date equipment helps our kids learn more about the game of football, so we really needed that badly.”  

With the knowledge that registration fees can be a deciding factor in many kids’ ability to participate in the league, Hayes Jr. strives to keep registration costs as low as possible, which is yet another thing USA Football’s grant assists with.  

Not only does Next Level Sports provide kids with ways to have active lifestyles, it also exposes the kids to leadership figures from all areas of life in the community, while emphasizing the importance of education.  

“We have various programs within our league such as engagement and mentor program,” Hayes Jr. said. During the season, they have guest speakers from all kinds of life come out and speak to the kids, not just football players. “We’re really big on education. You know, GPA, making sure kids are getting good grades and having good behavior in the classroom. In order to play, the kids are required to show a bi-weekly grade report. We try and teach them good habits about being a student-athlete before they get to high school.” 

No matter what path each kid decides to pursue in the long-run, Hayes Jr. gets the most fulfillment out of seeing them succeed in their personal journey. 

“When I see a kid’s dream come true, whatever that dream may be, it’s a special moment for me,” Hayes Jr. said. “Seeing them come back and talk to the kids about their journey is always a special moment for me.”