Award for Excellence in Coverage of Youth Sports

In 2009, the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism created the Award for Excellence in Coverage of Youth Sports. Work nominated for the award displays creative, in-depth and innovative coverage of youth and high school sports—especially larger issues and trends related to those levels of athletic competition.

The award is intended to recognize work by daily and weekly newspapers, local and national television news broadcasts and national news organizations. Work by multimedia and online news outlets is eligible as well.

Award for Excellence in Youth Sports award image, blue triangular crystal

Previous Winners

A series of stories about a child who grew up in the Congo and was attacked and disfigured by chimpanzees before moving to the United States to undergo a series of reconstructive surgeries and eventually earn a state wrestling championship was selected for the award. The series was authored by Gregg Sarra of Newsday. [Story] 


An ESPN team led by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Mike Kessler was honored for an exhaustive investigation and series of stories about a track coach who molested dozens of boys and young men over a period of nearly 40 years, concluding when that man was arrested in 2021. [Story]


Tim Bannon, Margaret Cahill and Amanda Parrish of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and O'Brien Fellowship at Marquette University were selected as recipients of the award for their series on how youth sports has navigated the pandemic. [Story]
(Other finalists: Kevin Armstrong, Sports Illustrated; Chris Harlan, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)


Roman Stubbs of The Washington Post, for a series of feature stories by Roman Stabout student-athletes in various sports who were overcoming unusual challenges presented by their surroundings. [Story]


"Believed," Michigan Radio and "Banned Coaches Project," USA TODAY [Story]
(Honorable Mention: Joe Drape, The New York Times)


"Paterson Eastside," Matthew Stanmyre/Steve Politi, NJ Advance Media 
(Other finalists: "Scam Dunk," Luke Cyphers/Teri Thompson, Deadspin; "Not just an NFL problem," Michael Phillips, Richmond-Times Dispatch; and Features: Sports through the eyes of a handul of the country's young athletes, their coaches and parents, Jesse Dougherty, The Washington Post)


"The 100-Yard Deception," Christopher Baxter/Matthew Stanmyre, NJ Advance Media [Story]
(Other finalists: "Lost in America," Luke Cyphers/Teri Thompson, Bleacher Report; "The Trusted Grown-Ups Who Steal Millions from Youth Sports," Bill Pennington, The New York Times; "A Stirring Victory for Texas High School. Then the Unthinkable," Jere Longman, The New York Times)


"Hard Knocks," Newsday [Story]
(Other finalists: Carlo Kemp Series, Denver Post; "Hardwood Journey," The New York Times)

2014 and editor Kyle Newman for its coverage of high school sports and related issues. [Story]
(Other finalists: Missy Isaacson, ESPNw; Travish Sawchik, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)


A series by the Tampa Bay Times, "Varsity Blues," addresses issues impacting high school sports. [Story] [SERIES]


John Branch of The New York Times for his series "The Lady Jaguars" about the girls basketball team at a school for troubled teens in Tennessee. [Story]


Rob Rossi of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review for his series "Brain Waves," about concussions and high school athletes. [Story]


George Dohrmann, author of "Play Their Hearts Out," a book about grassroots basketball.


Bob Hohler of the Boston Globe for his series "Failing our Athletes," about the plight of athletic programs and student-athletes and Boston public schools. 


Steve Sampsell