Before 1996, Muscatine did not have a recreational football program for elementary school aged children. Lifelong sports lovers Jim Miller and Lynn Stiles decided to create a program for younger children and created the Youth Sports Foundation (YSF). Over the past twenty-three years, the YSF has grown tremendously, bringing sports to children across the Midwest, and bringing the Muscatine community closer together.
After founding the YSF, the popularity of their first football program grew tremendously. People in communities around Muscatine requested the pair help start YSF locations in their towns, and what started as a purely local program became a large-scale nonprofit operating in 250 communities across Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. As YSF grew, it also added programming in coed track and field, cheerleading, and girls’ volleyball.
Always confident that the YSF would thrive and branch out into other communities, Miller feels pleased with its success and looks forward to continuing to nurture and grow the organization well into the future. I’m excited. I’m thrilled. It was our goal [to expand it] and we hope to keep it growing. We hope to keep expanding in other states and in Iowa as well.”
Though the YSF has grown into a multistate organization with a net revenue of nearly $1 million (according to recent 990 tax forms) they never have lost their local touch. At home in Muscatine, they continue to partner with the community to provide the best experience to all young players. “We’re supported by the community 100-fold,” says Miller. “We get so much help from the community; our staff is blessed.”
From collaborating with the Muscatine Community School District to share practice fields and gymnasiums, to corporate grants for scholarships, coach certifications, and equipment purchases, many parts of the Muscatine Community come together to support the YSF. However, one of their most meaningful community partnerships comes from working with the Muscatine High School sophomore and varsity football teams.
Each Sunday throughout the season, football players from these teams, under the supervision of certified adult coaches, lead the first and second grade flag football program. A sizeable commitment for in-season athletes, this partnership exemplifies how the YSF brings different parts of the Muscatine community together. As Miller sees it, “this is outstanding. These young men have no idea how much the little kids look up to them. And, they’re giving back. Many of them started in YSF programs.”
By creating a nonprofit organization that spans four states, the YSF put Muscatine on the map as a leader in kids’ sports. By partnering with community members from corporate executives to high school students, the YSF draws the local community together. Through everything it does, the YSF reminds local residents that Muscatine has a national significance but that it will never lose its hometown roots.