Sometimes a jersey does more than just distinguish your team from the opponent. That’s certainly the case with the Colorado Rapids New Day Kit.
Kit is soccer jargon for “jersey.” The New Day Kit is one special jersey. Conceived by the Major League Soccer club’s leadership more than two years ago, its purpose is to raise awareness of the mental health crisis in Colorado.
About 20% of this state’s residents live with a form of mental illness, the third-highest rate in the country. Colorado ranks last in the nation in access to care relative to the prevalence of mental illness. Suicide is the leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds.
“There’s still a stigma around mental health, especially in sports, so we launched our campaign to reduce the stigma and get people involved with local organizations to help the conversation and bring the issue to the forefront,” said Jordan Rothrock, the Colorado Rapids’ senior director of Creative & Brand.
UCHealth, the Rapids’ jersey sponsor, is playing a role, Rothrock added, by “providing the Rapids with their expertise and resources to properly engage the community around mental health. Mental health is a big priority for UCHealth.”
Justin Ross, UCHealth’s director of workplace well-being and a licensed clinical psychologist, says the New Day Kit – and, more broadly, UCHealth’ s Ready. Set. CO campaign – are opportunities to showcase mental health needs and challenges in the state.
“We see this opportunity of partnering with the Rapids as a chance to motivate, educate, challenge, and inspire everyone in the state of Colorado to be at their very best – that means physical, emotional, and mental health.” Ross said. “Because depression and anxiety are relatively common human experiences, we have an opportunity to openly discuss these concerns in order to educate and support one another.”
Colorado Rapids new kit more than a pretty shirt
In addition to raising awareness, the Rapids’ support of mental health extends to creating an online hub for mental health resources and ways for fans to volunteer and donate to local organizations supporting the community’s mental health needs. The club is also committing $25,000 to organizations supporting mental health in Colorado, including $10,000 to Mental Health Colorado.
To design the kit, the Rapids turned to former professional snowboarder turned Denver-based artist Pat Milbery. The club had done a photo shoot with one of Milbery’s “Love This City” murals in the background. Milbery went on to create the mural in the northeast corner of DICK’s Sporting Goods Park, and then to his working with adidas to create the first MLS jersey ever designed in collaboration with a local artist.
“I wanted the players to wear this jersey with the heart proudly because love unites us,” Milbery said. The love of sport, love of our community, and the love we show ourselves when we remember that every day is a new day,” Milbery said.
The New Day Kit will serve as the club’s “community kit” for the 2023 and 2024 MLS seasons, with the team wearing it at select away matches as well as at the Rapids’ upcoming May 27 home game at DICK’s Sporting Goods Park against FC Cincinnati.
The New Day Kit has been about much more than soccer fashion from the outset, Ross says. It’s a symbol of a larger effort to address mental health in a proactive and sustainable way.
“That’s really the power of this partnership,” he said. “They have an amazing platform, UCHealth has an amazing platform, and when you put the two together, a lot of good can come from it.”