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Beyond the Score: Green Bay non-profit helps families with rising cost of youth sports

Described by one parent as "the best thing ever," Rise Up Athletics helps give young Green Bay athletes access to sports.
Posted at 8:25 PM, Apr 29, 2024

GREEN BAY (NBC 26) — Five years ago, Green Bay East Alumnus Kyle Crosey started coaching football at Washington Middle School.

“Early on I noticed that our kids were very far behind,” Cropsey said.

The problem? He says it's a lack of access to youth sports among kids in the Green Bay East system.

“It’s a lot more expensive to play sports now," he said. "Just for baseball this year it’s $175 per kid."

"Especially in our community, there’s a lot of poverty," he added. "So our kids don’t get these opportunities like suburban schools get.”

Youth sports have become a big business. A 2022 study from The Aspen Institute estimates that American families collectively spend between $30-40 billion on youth sports each year, with the average family paying nearly $900 for one child's primary sport.

So, Cropsey took action. Last January he founded Rise Up Athletics, a non-profit that helps Green Bay East and West student-athletes play at no cost to their families.

“We cover everything," he said. "We pay fees. You get the jerseys and equipment for free. I just bought a 12-person shuttle bus so I can start bringing kids to practice.”

It's a first-time opportunity for many of the players, some of whom had never played baseball before Rise Up.
“Little to zero (baseball experience), to be honest," Xavier, an 8th grader at Washington Middle School, said. "(I hadn't) played baseball before Rise Up and I’m glad I got to start playing baseball with Rise Up.”

Olivia Ponce's son, Isaac, joined Rise Up's baseball team at the urging of Cropsey.

Previously she said they'd never even considered the sport.

"This is the best thing ever," Ponce said.

"We would have never had the opportunity (to play baseball)," she added. "I don’t even think he would have ever brought it up. Or, where would we go sign up?”

Ponce said the program is paying dividends for her family and the others in their community.

“These kids need somebody like Coach Cropsey to get them into sports and out of trouble," Ponce said. "I think it’s huge because without coach we wouldn’t have been able to do all of these sports."

"We couldn’t afford it, we have other kids,” she added.

Parents and players are buying into Cropsey's mission.

“I believe what coach is standing for," Xavier, a catcher for Rise Up's baseball team, said. "And the stuff that he’s doing I think is going to change the environment of the schools around us and the more we just keep doing it."

"The more people we recruit, the bigger the program is going to get,” he said.

The journey is just beginning, but Cropsey said the ultimate goal is to help restore the sports programs at Green Bay's inner city schools.

And, perhaps more importantly, to change lives in the process.

“It’s time to bring that juice back," Cropsey said. "It’s time for East and West to be relevant again."

"What we’re building here, it’s bigger than sports. It’s about a whole community and just building up our families and kids."

Rise Up fund-raises through both donations and partnerships with local businesses.

The organization currently offers football, basketball, wrestling, and baseball. Cropsey said they soon plan to add more sports, with volleyball and softball on the horizon.