Local Players Take Center Stage
at Soccer for Success Practices
Yohane Griffin and Craig Ashmann were just a couple of regular, 13-year-old soccer players — good ones, mind you (Yohane is a member of Washington Youth Soccer's Elite Player Development program), but on the surface, not all that different from your typical junior-high athlete.
That is, right up until the moment they walked into South King County elementary schools earlier this year to give a few soccer tips as part of Washington Youth Soccer's after-school Soccer for Success program.
That's when they became celebrities.
“It was crazy, kids were asking for our autographs and stuff,” Craig recalls. “They thought that we were superstars. It was cool.”
Griffin and Ashmann, who both play for Federal Way Football Club, have spent the spring representing Washington Youth Soccer at elementary schools throughout the region, teaching kids about the physical, social and psychological benefits of soccer. It's all part of the state's Soccer for Success program, an innovative youth development program that uses soccer as a tool to combat childhood obesity and promote healthy lifestyles for children in low-income urban communities.
In a typical visit, Griffin and Ashmann — who arrive in full uniform — play soccer with the kids, mostly aged 6-12, share the ways in which soccer has improved their lives, and answer questions ranging from how much they have to practice, to what kind of food they eat to stay fit — even, "Did you just fly in?
“The kids ask good questions,” says Washington Youth Soccer Board member Paula Griffin, who accompanies the boys on their visits. “They love seeing and playing with Yohane and Craig; they're always very excited.”
“We talk about our soccer experiences, and how soccer has affected our life,” Yohane says. Craig adds, “We encourage them that if they work hard, they can get far in soccer.”
In addition to the service they are providing the Soccer for Success programs, Craig notes that he and Yohane have benefitted, too, in the form of increased confidence speaking in front of large groups, and the experience of being a role model for younger players.
“We were excited at first, but nervous, too, to go up in front of so many people,” he recalls. “But then we had a bunch of little kids that thought we were celebrities; it made it easier to relax.”
And, of course, to sign a few autographs.
To learn more about participating in the Soccer for Success program, either as a coach, school administrator, or Club or Association representative, visit http://www.washingtonyouthsoccer.org/programs/soccer_for_success/ or email Ellie Lipton.