Soccer For Success Brings Families Together
The stated goal of the U.S. Soccer Foundation's Soccer for Success program is to use soccer as a tool to combat childhood obesity and promote healthy lifestyles for children in low-income urban communities.
The fun, fellowship and new friends are just a lucky byproduct.
Combining soccer skill-building, life mentorship and nutritional instruction from qualified coaches throughout the Puget Sound region, the Soccer for Success program has proven to be as big a hit with the elementary-school kids who participate as it has with the parents and educators who signed them up as a means of improving fitness and activity.
"This program's impact has seen quality structured soccer provided for kids who would otherwise not be playing, while also having a positive impact on improving player's health. One great example was recently shared with me by an Assistant Coach, who is also a parent of two players in the program." says Heather Turney, Washington Youth Soccer's Member Services and Outreach Coordinator. "His oldest son ran up to him after practice, all excited, and pulled him down to whisper in his ear … 'Dad, thank you so much for putting me in soccer! I already lost three pounds!' It was really exciting to see the connection between soccer, physical activity and healthy living represented in his comments."
Over 600 kids participated in the fall season, which concludes in December and January. The program provides 90 minutes of structured soccer three times a week for two twelve week seasons. This season Soccer for Success has reached players from first through sixth grade, with 81 percent from non-Caucasian backgrounds, 92 percent on free or reduced-fee lunch, and 37 percent either classified as overweight or obese.
"The progress that the kids have made this fall has been significant," Turney says. "Take Washington Elementary, for example — the first time we were out there, it was pee-wee soccer, with kids bunching and completely confused when playing organized soccer. I went out last week (week 8) and the transformation was incredible. They understood and played to the rules, they were playing in position, they were passing … it was like they had been playing soccer together for an entire year. And they were having fun."
To celebrate the season, Washington Youth Soccer is hosting a series of Family Engagement Events in each school, with prizes for kids with good attendance and hands-on demonstrations by program sponsors. The American Heart Association will do a healthy cooking demonstration at five schools, while Virginia Mason will conduct a fun, "gross-out" style experience highlighting the fat content of fast food.
Additional Family Engagement Events are planned for the schools that will be wrapping up their seasons in January. The spring season of Soccer for Success will kick off in the same schools in late February and early March with player participation expanding to reach an additional 200 players.
"It's great to see the kids so excited about their progress, both in soccer and their personal fitness," Turney says as the fall season comes to a close. "It's gone really well and everyone is looking forward to a successful conclusion and the start of the spring."
If you're interested in participating in a Family Engagement Event, or would like to learn more about the Soccer for Success program, contact Heather Turney at firstname.lastname@example.org, or click "Soccer For Success" under the "Programs" tab at WashingtonYouthSoccer.org.