Soccer For Success Wraps Up Exciting First Year
Washington Youth Soccer wrapped up the first year of the U.S. Soccer Foundation's popular Soccer for Success program in June, and the results were far beyond what even the most optimistic planners had expected.
Over the course of the year, the school-based program — designed to promote healthy lifestyles for children in low-income, urban communities — enrolled over 1,000 elementary- and middle-school students in the Highline, Tukwila, Kent and Auburn School Districts, many of whom sought to continue their soccer education with Washington Youth Soccer clubs upon the program’s completion.
“It was an unbelievably beautiful surprise to see kids thrive as much as they did,” says Ellie Lipton, Washington Youth Soccer’s Community and Outreach Program Manager. “Many of these kids had been told that they’re ‘troubled kids,’ or ‘bad kids,’ and they’ve internalized that to the point where they act out simply because that’s what’s expected of them. It was exciting to watch these same kids grow and not only become amazingly skilled soccer players, but leaders as well.”
The Soccer for Success program sends coaches into local schools three times a week to conduct 90-minute sessions covering soccer skills and strategy, but also teaching personal responsibility, leadership, health and social skills.
Lipton says that teachers in the Soccer for Success schools were amazed at the progress their students made.
“The feedback from the schools was how surprised they were that the kids were thriving in the program,” Lipton says. She highlights the story of one student in particular, a boy named Khalid.
“We were told initially that Khalid would be incredibly difficult, and in the fall, it was a constant struggle — he’d pick on kids, and start fights,” she recalls. “By the end of the spring season, though, not only was he helping others, he had become an outstanding leader, and a positive role model for others. It was really moving to see him succeed.”
To celebrate the end of the season, the Soccer for Success coordinators scheduled Family Engagement Events at each school — featuring activities related to health and an adults-vs.-kids scrimmage — as well as two Friendship Tournaments, bringing together students from different programs for fun events in Tukwila and Auburn.
At the Tukwila tournament, representatives of Tukwila Youth Soccer Club spoke to the families in attendance about their options to continue playing soccer following the conclusion of the Soccer for Success season. Nearly 50 percent of the players in the program were subsequently registered with TYSC teams. In addition, six kids in a middle school program in Auburn tried out for Select and Premier teams this spring, and every single one was accepted.
“It was a huge success,” Lipton says.
Heading into Year Two in the fall, Lipton is hopeful to strengthen the ties between Soccer for Success schools and their local Washington Youth Soccer Clubs and Associations, while further increasing enrollment.
“These are areas that, for various reasons, are currently not being reached by Washington Youth Soccer. Yet, there are hundreds of talented, enthusiastic youth soccer players who want to play — they just need to be given the opportunity,” she says. “It’s an incredible recruitment tool for our local clubs.”
If you’re interested in learning more about Soccer for Success, or becoming involved as a volunteer or club administrator, contact Ellie Lipton at 253-944-1609 or firstname.lastname@example.org.