clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

T.J. Ward Foundation, Purpose 2 Play giving kids unique sports opportunity

The next Stuart Scott or Adam Schefter just may emerge from a new sports reporting program for at-risk youth that Denver Broncos defensive back T.J. Ward is helping sponsor through his foundation.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

It's not Free Agency news, not Peyton Manning news, but it's still cool.

And that's the whole point of a new program for at-risk youth that Broncos' T.J. Ward is helping to sponsor - teaching the tenets of good sports journalism to kids via an academic outlet for their love of athletics.

Partnering with Purpose 2 Play, kids in Denver involved with the T.J. Ward Foundation will get an opportunity to be sports journalists, learning how to interview, report and construct a story.

And they'll get to try their new craft on some pretty cool interviewees - the Denver Broncos.

The idea comes from Purpose 2 Play founder Kim Constantinesco, who spent seven years covering the Denver Broncos for Predominantly Orange before launching P2P in 2013, a sports news site that focuses on the positive stories related to tragedy and triumph of athletes and their teams.

It's the perfect partnership for getting at-risk kids into something both cool and, well, purposeful.

We are giving these kids an opportunity to contribute to the sports world without having to step onto the field but in a positive upbeat environment to improve their writing skills. -Kim Constantinesco, Purpose 2 Play founder

To that end, Constantinesco and Ward have created "On Deck" - a short-course sports journalism program for a handful of high school kids interested in sports but in need of an outlet that doesn't rely only on their athletic skills.

"We are giving these kids an opportunity to contribute to the sports world without having to step onto the field," Constantinesco said, adding that the chosen students will be getting a positive, upbeat environment to improve their writing skills as well as interpersonal skills - intangibles not generally presented to kids considered at risk. "We believe their time outside of school will be more purposeful, they'll learn to work within deadlines and they'll be able to take pride in their work."

On Deck will include a four-week "sports reporting class" for half-dozen Denver 14- to 18-year-olds who are maintaining a 3.0 GPA. The course will culminate with a chance to interview Ward and a few Broncos teammates.

Ward added that the partnership is perfect for his foundation, whose mission is to be a vehicle of change in underprivileged communities across the country - including Denver, his hometown of San Francisco, and Cleveland, where he started his NFL career.

Since joining the Broncos last spring, Ward has been very active in Denver, spreading his foundation work to kids all across the city.

"I have been blessed with the opportunity to  inspire youth by working with organizations such as Purpose2Play and the Boy & Girls Club of Metro Denver," Ward told Mile High Report.

Millions of kids dream of becoming star athletes who will splash into the pro ranks and become multimillionaires in the process, but the odds of that happening to anyone - much less kids with fewer opportunities - are very low.

I have been blessed with the opportunity to inspire youth by working with organizations such as Purpose 2 Play and the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Denver. Programs like [On Deck] provide young adults an opportunity to develop and showcase their talent.   -T.J. Ward, Broncos' safety

But learning good communication and writing skills, working under deadline, being accountable to editors, and producing professional-quality work - all great skills for becoming successful adults.

"Programs like these provide young adults an opportunity to develop and showcase their talent," Ward added. "I believe all youth today need programs like the ones I've been able to work with to inspire that change."

Inspiring change is exactly what On Deck hopes to do.

Following the four-week class, On Deck graduates will then have opportunities to go out in the Denver sports community and cover a variety of sporting events - from high school games all the way to professional competitions - thanks to Constantinesco's contacts in the Denver sports arena.

"I'm really looking forward to getting started," said the 31-year-old journalist who always loves a good challenge.

And she has no delusions that this won't be a big one, given her pupils likely have little to no experience interviewing and reporting, much less writing, a news story.

But that's also the fun of it.

"I know it will take more than four weeks, but I'm willing to offer that, even if it means tearing apart sentences one by one," Constantinesco said. "We're going to start with the basics - who, what, when, where, why and how - and talk about how to express that."

Expressing the important part of a story - especially the positive side of sports and the great stories of athletes overcoming odds - is what Constantinesco is all about and part of what she hopes to instill in these students.

The college basketball player-turned-snowboarder went to graduate school for psychology but learned quickly she wasn't very good at the counseling end but was great at telling the patients' stories. That interest led her into sports journalism seven years ago but more importantly into positive storytelling, which became the impetus and foundation for Purpose 2 Play.

Constantinesco became most interested in the stories of athletes - their struggles and triumphs - which is something she has also experienced after a scary neck injury snowboarding a few years back.

Her recovery experience, as well as a comeback this winter, has given Constantinesco a more empathetic view of the athlete's experience - something she believes makes her a better sports journalist.

Sometimes life is messy and circumstances are ugly, but the athletes we cover show we have the ability to choose who we will become. I'm excited for our youth to not only see that but to apply positive choices to their lives.   -Kim Constantinesco, P2P

She recently told Sports Illustrated that while she did expect her Purpose 2 Play idea to catch on, she didn't expect to find so many incredible stories of major triumph.

"Researching and writing these stories taught me that adversity can be a tremendous wind in your sails, if you tilt your head and change your perspective," she told SI in February. "I've noticed some common traits in the people that we cover at P2P. They know how to manage their own insecurities in order to fully trust their innate abilities."

Constantinesco hopes that same passion for overcoming the odds and making good choices all comes through  for kids participating in the On Deck experience.

"Sometimes life is messy, and circumstances are ugly, but the athletes that we cover show that we all have the ability to choose who we will become," Constantinesco said, adding that she looks forward to expanding this program to the other cities in which Ward's foundation operates and possibly with other professional athletes. "I'm excited for our youth to not only see that, but to apply positive choices into to their own lives."

And if that experience also influences the media culture somewhere down the line, all the better.

"Any time you're working with younger generations there is hope on some level of creating social change," said Constantinesco, adding that the sports world has often been a catalyst for societal progress. "Ultimately, the goal of Purpose 2 Play is to change the way our media prioritizes the story. Having this younger generation in our hands is a chance to sculpt them too."