US Play Coalition Announces 2021 YLI’s Youth Development Practitioner Award Winner

The U.S. Play Coalition and Clemson University’s Youth Learning Institute are proud to announce the 2021  Youth Development Practitioner Award Winner:

Joyce Hemphill, PhD

First awarded in 2017, the Youth Learning Institute’s Youth Development Practitioner Award recognizes outstanding performance in the creation and implementation of youth development programs or services.  The evaluation criteria is quite extensive and detailed below.  “There are many deserving practitioners across the nation, and our goal is to bring recognition to this field of service,” said Stephen Lance, executive director of the Youth Learning Institute.


Joyce Hemphill, PhD, is a play advocate, play consultant and a retired professor of child development. Early in her career, she valued the importance of play, but it wasn’t until her (now-adult) sons’ school district eliminated morning recess that she began publicly advocating for play. After that ruling, Joyce started organizing community play events, speaking and writing on the value of play, giving workshops on ways to play, and teaching classes on the importance of play.

Joyce holds a doctorate in developmental psychology from The Ohio State University and almost 30 years of college classroom experience teaching infant child development, cognition, and learning. While at the University of Wisconsin-Madison she developed and taught a course on “The Importance of Play in Child Development,” which included a service-learning component of a student sponsored community “PlayDay”.

Though she retired from UW in spring 2012, Joyce did not retire from her WORK to promote PLAY!  Soon after retirement, she began writing a column for the US Play Coalition, which now lives on our “Playing from Scratch” Pinterest board.

In 2014, Joyce co-authored The Power of Playful Learning with Laura Scheinholtz and Heather Von Bank, which highlights the various benefits children receive from the making of and playing with games and play props.  More recently, her “Mosquito Badminton” make-n-play activity was featured in Highlights Magazine for Children.

Joyce continues to give workshops for teachers, parents, families, youth groups, and care providers on ways to create playful learning activities using recyclable and low-cost materials. In addition to her involvement with the US Play Coalition, she is very engaged with the American Association for the Child’s Right to Play (IPA USA), The Association for the Study of Play (TASP), and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

Joyce “is a practitioner of play,” says her nominator, Heather Von Bank, PhD. “All the work that she has done in her career has been devoted to supporting children and families’ development through playful activity and interaction.”

Congratulations to our ever-playful, 2021 YLI Outstanding Youth Development Practitioner Award Winner, Joyce Hemphill, PhD.

First awarded in 2017, the Youth Development Practitioner Award recognizes outstanding performance in the creation and implementation of youth development programs or services.

Evaluation Criteria includes:

  • Accomplishments serve as an example for other youth serving programs.
  • Program/service demonstrates best practices and a nurturing culture that supports inclusivity and human resilience.
  • Outreach efforts promote youth development programs and encourage support and participation from the community at-large.
  • Equips young people to lead and serve, through direct work with youth and by training other practitioners.
  • Demonstrates positive impact on lives of young people and leads by example.
  • Demonstrates high level of leadership, professionalism and integrity in the field of youth development.
  • Strengthens the field of youth work by providing quality training opportunities for youth workers to maximize their investment in young people.
  • Focuses on attempts to improve the quality of youth services by providing training standards and improving program function.
  • Shares best practices with other youth practitioners or serves as a liaison in the community to create a network of participation and sharing of ideas/knowledge.
  • Program/service demonstrates exceptional commitment to public service and/or educational leadership.

The U.S. Play Coalition
Founded in 2009, the U.S. Play Coalition is an international network of individuals and organizations that promote the value of play throughout life. The coalition is housed in Clemson University’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management department, part of the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences.  Our membership comes from a cross-section of industries and professions – play researchers, educators, park and recreation professionals, health scientists, architects, landscape architects, designers, planners, business and community leaders, psychologists, physicians, parents and more.  Learn more at

Youth Learning Institute
The Youth Learning Institute (YLI) is a vital component of Clemson University’s youth outreach effort that helps fulfill the University’s mission of public service by using the research and knowledge of University faculty and staff to develop programs that especially reach youth. More than 100,000 young people participate annually in over 100 programs held at our leadership centers, ranging from one-day school training to two-week residential programs.