Recently, Laureus Sport for Good Foundation USA, an organization that uses sports to improve the lives of youth, launched its Los Angeles initiative, which will train 40 volunteer coaches and place them in 10 sports-based youth development programs that will mentor approximately 5,000 children throughout Los Angeles.

Laureus USA will use $1.3 million contributed by Mercedes-Benz, for the national program to train and place 250 coaches from Coach Across America, an AmeriCorps program that trains highly effective coaches in sports and youth development. These coaches will work in sports-based youth programs in underserved neighborhoods in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Miami, and New Orleans.

The initiative will give youth opportunities to engage in physical activities with trained coaches who act as mentors in many programs throughout Los Angeles, including Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA), Brotherhood Crusade, A World Fit for Kids!, After-School All-Stars L.A., America SCORES L.A., Kids in Sports, Woodcraft Rangers, PLAY SOCCER Nonprofit International, Play Rugby USA and Street Soccer.

“We collect kids for positive programs before the streets collect them,” said Marcus Allen, former Los Angeles Raiders running back and Laureus World Sports Academy member.

Laureus, Coaches for America, and the organizations receiving coaches work to curb youth violence, drug use and childhood obesity.

The Los Angeles initiative kickoff day, July 9, was celebrated at La Fayette Park, with employees from Mercedez-Benz, coaches from Coach Across America and Laureus World Sports Academy members Allen, Edwin Moses, a two-time Olympic champion in track and field and chairman of Laureus Sport for Good Foundation USA; Nadia Comaneci, five-time gymnastics Olympic champion; and Tony Hawk, one of the most successful pioneers of modern-day skateboarding.

These Academy members serve as living, breathing, touchable role models who will periodically visit participating Laureus programs.

“We believe in the transformational power of sport as a tool for social good. Today’s coaches go beyond the traditional sense of the term coach,” said Moses. “They are mentors, community organizers and mediators. Investing in proper training and offering support for these coaches is vital to sports-based youth development, especially as youth violence and obesity escalate and school-based programs continue to be decimated by budget cuts. Initiatives like this are essential in America to fill the gap.”