• In 1996, Jill Vialet was sitting across from a principal of an elementary school in Oakland. The principal looked haggard, emerging from an earlier meeting trailed by three 5th grade boys. The principal launched into a tirade about…recess.

    She was tired of seeing the same kids in her office every day, hauled in for fighting on the playground. These weren’t bad kids, she insisted. Meanwhile, her teachers looked for any excuse — sometimes literally hiding — to avoid recess so they wouldn’t have to confront the inevitable outbreak of chaos.

    Within the year, Vialet founded Sports4Kids, which is now Playworks. Our goal: transform recess and the school day with safe and healthy play so teachers can teach and kids can learn.


    Today, Playworks is the only nonprofit organization in the country providing trained, full-time play coaches focused on recess to hundreds of low-income schools in major urban areas. We also provide training and technical assistance to schools, districts and youth organizations that wish to include inclusive, healthy play as part of a positive learning environment.

    As a result, 85 percent of principals report that students are more engaged in school since having Playworks on site. The safe and healthy play Playworks brings to schools helps students succeed in the classroom — and in life.


    Playworks’ Milestones


    • Playworks is founded and brings healthy play to schools in Berkeley, California


    • Playworks launches a girls basketball team in conjunction with Title IX Sports


    • Playworks expands across the bridge to serve schools in San Francisco
    • Playworks launches first community training initiative


    • Jill Vialet is elected as an Ashoka Fellow
    • Playworks awarded first AmeriCorps contract


    • Playworks awarded $4.4 million expansion grant from Robert Wood Johnson
    • Playworks expands to Baltimore
    • Playworks sends more than 30 staff to Houston, TX to provide children displaced by Hurricane Katrina with the chance to play


    • Playworks expands to schools in Boston, and Washington, DC
    • Playworks opens Silicon Valley operations
    • Playworks surpasses the 100 school mark, serving 114 schools


    • “Recess Rules,” a report about the value of recess, recognizes Playworks as an exceptional model for improving the health of children
    • The Open Society Institute in Baltimore documents Playworks’ effectiveness in reducing suspension rates in local schools
    • Harvard Family Research Project finds that Playworks improves students’ focus and participation in class, and results in fewer suspensions


    • Playworks is recognized as a top “Changemaker” by Nike and Ashoka
    • Playworks expands to schools in St. Louis and New Orleans
    • The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation awards Playworks an $18 million grant to expand to 650 additional schools and 27 cities by 2012
    • Playworks serves 105 schools in eight cities, bringing play to 40,000 students.


    • Playworks coaches and staff lead games at the White House Annual Easter Egg Roll
    • Playworks expands to Portland, Los Angeles and Newark
    • Playworks hosts Play On, the first-ever national conference on play, in San Francisco
    • Playworks, formerly Sports4Kids, announces its new name
    • Playworks partners with the National Head Start Association and Nike to provide training and technical service to centers in New York and Los Angeles
    • Playworks serves 170 schools and 70,000 students in 10 cities


    • Playworks expands into Denver, Detroit, Houston, Philadelphia and the Twin Cities
    • Playworks is asked to become part of First Lady's Let's Move initiative
    • Playworks rolls out district-wide program to provide training and support to campus security assistants in Stockton, CA 
    • Playworks Founder Jill Vialet addresses the TEDx Conference in San Francisco
    • ABC Nightline features Playworks during Recess Roll-Out week in Little Rock
    • Jill Vialet honored as a social innovator at the Clinton Global Initiative
    • Playworks serves more than 105,000 students in 248 schools in 15 cities


    • Playworks featured on ABC Good Morning America, The New York Times
    • Playworks to expand to Albuquerque, NM; Chicago, IL; Durham, NC; Jackson, MI; Phoenix, AZ and Salt Lake City, UT