Last week, The Shaquille O’Neal Foundation and longtime Shaquille O’Neal partner Icy Hot announced the 23 U.S. high schools being awarded Get Game Ready grants, closing out the program launched in September 2020 to help high school athletic programs financially burdened by the pandemic.
Between Sept. 25 and Oct. 31, 136 Title I U.S. public high schools from across the country applied requesting varying amounts of money for a wide range of needs, including personal protective equipment (PPE), uniforms, reusable water bottles, transportation costs and sports gear.
The 23 high school recipients of Get Game Ready grants are:
Ashland High School — Ashland, Miss
. Bay High School — Panama City, Fla.
Bonanza High School — Las Vegas, Nev.
Booker T. Washington High School — Atlanta, Ga.
Carver High School – Atlanta, Ga.
C.E. Murray High School — Greeleyville, S.C.
Coliseum College Prep Academy — Oakland, Calif.
Desert Pines High School — Las Vegas, Nev.
Dougherty Comprehensive High School — Albany, Ga.
Galena High School — Galena, Mo.
Hancock Central High School — Sparta, Ga.
Hopi Junior Senior High School — Keams Canyon, Ariz.
John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science — Roxbury, Mass.
Lower Lake High School — Lower Lake, Calif.
McDonough High School — McDonough, Ga.
Miramar High School — Miramar, Fla.
Mountainair Public School — Mountainair, N.M.
Pateros High School — Pateros, Wash.
Phineas Banning High School — Wilmington, Calif.
Rancho High School — Las Vegas, Nev.
South Atlanta High School – Atlanta, Ga.
Warren Easton Charter High School — New Orleans, La.
Woodland Hills High School — Pittsburgh, Pa.
The Shaquille O’Neal Foundation and Icy Hot were inspired to create the Get Game Ready initiative after witnessing COVID-19 take a terrible toll on youth sports across the country, including the athletic programs of several severely impacted high schools in Atlanta, Ga and Las Vegas, Nev.
Putting sports on hold eliminated crucial revenue from game ticket sales and deprived scores of student-athletes of critical physical activity, structure and camaraderie. Schools in rural communities face extra challenges when it comes to getting students to and from games. To comply with social distancing requirements, they need to increase the number of vehicles transporting students.
“For student-athletes, sports are a vital physical, mental and social outlet, and it’s devastating to have something that fundamental taken away. We know how crucial athletics are, which is why we are so honored for the opportunity to work with Icy Hot and give back to schools and students,” Shaquille O'Neal said. “I really feel for all the kids who have had to cope with that challenge on top of the stress and isolation caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which is why I wanted to do something to help.”
In addition to funds, the awardees will be given access to expert guidance from the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA). They will provide overall safety and prevention best practices as well as COVID-19 guidelines, consultation and support. For those schools without an athletic trainer, NATA will offer expertise and connection resources which could assist them in hiring one, a crucial component of keeping student athletes safe and healthy.
“Increased risk for injury due to reduced physical activity, mental health concerns and pandemic protocols are all new challenges that student athletes are likely to face when they are able to return to sport,” said NATA President, Tory Lindley, MA, ATC. “It is critical that schools have appropriate resources and athletic trainer-led health care ready to help student athletes, coaches and parents navigate an uncertain but vital time. We are proud to work alongside The Shaquille O’Neal Foundation, supported by Icy Hot, to help provide schools with resources imperative for a safer return to sport.”
Icy Hot helped fund Get Game Ready grants by donating $1 (up to $400,000) to The Shaquille O’Neal Foundation for every box of Icy Hot sold, helping a total of 23 schools across the country. The grant committee considered a number of factors when selecting recipients and determining individual award amounts, including the collective impact on the students, the specific ask and overall need, the total budget available and the various regional COVID-19 protocols. Get Game Ready grants were distributed before December 31, 2020, and school recipients must use the funds for eligible expenses associated with their next active high school sports season.